Katie is currently a post-doctoral Botany Fellow at Wellesley College. Her research focuses how shade tree and avian biodiversity is shaped by farmer decision making in smallholder coffee farms in northern Nicaragua. Katie’s work follows a Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach, in which farmers and coffee cooperative administrators helped to develop research questions, were an active part of the systems data collection process, and receive final results of the study. Incorporating empirical social science and natural science data into one study, Katie hopes that her work can be a model for analytically encapsulating the inherent transdisciplinarity of agroecosystems. She completed her doctoral with University of Vermont’s Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group.
Dr. Ina Vandebroek is a research specialist at the New York Botanical Garden where she is directing several research projects, including “Improving Healthcare for Underserved Immigrant Latino Communities in New York City” funded by The Aetna Founation and The Cigna Foundation and “Dominican Traditional Medicine for Urban Community Health” funded by the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Ina investigates the use of medicinal plants and cultural beliefs about illnesses in New York City’s immigrant communities of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Mexicans, addressing questions about the shift in medicinal plant use and knowledge with immigration from rural to urban environments. Her research results are used to develop curricula materials for health care professionals to improve cultural sensitivity during the clinical encounter.
Dr. Vandebroek was featured on the PBS program “The Secret Life of Scientists” where her passion for science and salsa dancing are featured. She has also collaborated with artist Jef Geys on an installation at the 2009 Venice Biennale.
Food is recognized as one way that ethnic cultures are assimilated into the mainstream culture. This week at Science Workshop, Valerie Imbruce will use her on-going research about Chinatown in Manhattan to show that ethnicity has been used to construct networks of trade that supply traditional Chinese foods in order to serve the needs of enclave, sustain ethnic foodways, and provide up to one-quarter of the jobs in Chinatown. Chinese food also holds a powerful place in America’s culinary imagination. Savvy restaurateurs have used humble Chinese foodstuffs to create a very public ethnic identity and promote the adoption of Chinese cuisine into American culture. This example illustrates how ethnicity is used in the material and symbolic construction of an alternative food network and how the alterity of alternative food networks does not just live outside of the mainstream, but interacts with it.
A mash-up of social, natural, and visual arts faculty at Bennington applied to the NSF’s program “Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math” in order to develop our curricula offerings in Environmental Studies. Fifteen months after submission of the application, we received the good news that our project “The Future of a New England Mill Town” has been fully funded. We will be working with local experts and community leaders to develop a two course sequence to investigate how Bennington’s socioeconomic environment has been shaped by its natural resource base, and how current concerns about renewable energy sources, local agriculture, and environmental contamination might shape Bennington’s future resource use. The course sequence will include internships at regional organizations during FWT for students to fully immerse themselves in their place of study. The project will begin in academic year 2013, stay tuned.