Field Notes - CAL Summer Research 2023

May 30, 2023
Field Notes - CAL Summer Research - busy beach in Brazil

CAL summer research projects will take place in a variety of international, national, and local cities this summer. Here are highlights of the notable work that dedicated students and faculty plan to engage in during summer 2023.


Sureshi Jayawardene was one of 19 recipients based in California of a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Stipend award. It is the first NEH grant for Jayawardene.

This summer she will work on completing two chapters of her book, “We are Ceylon Africans!: Africana Culture, Politics, and Identity in Sri Lanka,” the first book-length mixed- method study about the contemporary epistemologies of Ceylon Africans — generations-long African-descended people in Sri Lanka.

This book is the first by an Africana Studies scholar to examine the global circuits of racialization and militarism in relation to enslaved Africans in South Asia. Jayawardene will conduct archival research at the National Archives in Colombo, Sri Lanka. 


Primatologist Erin Riley, is no stranger to Indonesia and the study of Sulawesi macaque behavior. Since 2006, she has led six student research teams in Indonesia to better understand the ecological and cultural interconnections between people and primates.

A new three-year NSF grant provides funding for five students from San Diego State University to travel to Sulawesi, Indonesia for six weeks to engage in integrated primatological and ecological research that will advance human-primate coexistence and ecosystem health.

Arion Mayes, and Carlos Figueroa Beltran (Center for Latin American Studies), will do field research in Oaxaca in June, with Center for Latin American Studies Director Ramona Pérez


Alvin J. Henry plans two projects:

1) Assessing the effects of a humanities and social sciences major on career outcomes.

In popular culture, majoring in English is often equated with working as a barista postgrad. This controlling myth paints an incorrect picture of how the humanities and social sciences can be the foundation for a satisfying and successful career. This project asks how SDSU alumni in the humanities and social sciences translated their majors into career success.

This information will inform future students and their families on why students can follow their passions — and be successful. PIs are Henry and Aileen Taylor-Grant, assistant dean of CAL.

2) Determining how race, gender, and sexuality influence STEM identity.

STEM industries have historically lacked a diverse workforce that includes women, sexual minorities, and people of color. The research on diversity in STEM relies on the concept of a science identity, which does not take into consideration race, gender, and sexuality. This study seeks to enlarge the definition of science identity to take into consideration how students with marginalized identities envision themselves as STEM students and future STEM professionals. This study will help colleges redesign the recruitment, mentoring, and graduation rates of all STEM students by accounting for the whole student. 

Stephen Suh, assistant professor of sociology and Asian American Studies will be doing fieldwork in Korea. 


Erika Robb-Larkins, will do research for two projects in Brazil:

1) Extreme heat in Rio and how people across class lines cope with it.

This project examines how low-income residents of Rio de Janeiro are finding ways to stay cool in the increasingly scorching temperatures brought about by climate change. By following people in their daily struggles to live and work in extreme temperatures, we seek to better understand the challenges of life in heat islands. The research will look specifically at disparities around access to air conditioning, which has become an essential household appliance in Rio, even while it remains out of reach for many low-income families who can not afford a unit or lack reliable stable electrical connection to power it.

2) Women’s artisan fishing and gender empowerment.  

In collaboration with Brazilian anthropologist Iacy Pissolato, this project examines how traditional small-scale fisherwomen in Bahia, Brazil are responding to changing seas. By collecting the stories of older women, who learned to fish from their grandmothers, mothers, aunts, and sisters, we are documenting the climate memory of an important part of Brazil’s coast and while also earning from the local community’s resilience as we look to climate futures.


Ron Shadbegian was awarded SURP funding to study “The Effects of Short-Term, Prenatal and Postnatal Lead Exposure on Early Educational Outcomes: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from NASCAR’s Deleading Policy.” 

Ryan Abman will focus on a SURP-funded project titled “Empirical Analysis of the Environmental Impacts of the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Program.” 

Hisham Foad will do research on “The Socioeconomic Effects of Migrant Age of Arrival in the United States,” with his SURP award.

Immigrants have traditionally been classified as first generation (born abroad) or second generation (native born to immigrant parents). However, these classifications often miss critical differences within immigrant generations. For first generation, age of arrival has been shown to have significant effects on socioeconomic outcomes later in life.

Foad will explore explanations for this in two papers that consider the role of language acquisition and social integration as measured by intermarriage rates. In a third paper, he will study the second generation that considers how the gender of the migrant parent in intermarriages can have significant effects on outcomes. The results from these studies have important implications related to how policy resources should be targeted for migrant integration. Students will learn that Identifying the key impediments to migrant integration allows us to better focus on policy.


Lashon Daley, director of the National Center for the Study of Children’s Literature will travel to South Korea for six weeks this summer to explore the relationship between the U.S. and South Korea through the lens of children’s literature. She will be touring the country, visiting local libraries and bookstores to investigate which picture books have the most impact in various communities.

Are these picture books American texts translated into Korean? Which American picture books are popular in Korea and why? Which picture books showcase the relationship between the U.S. and Korea pre and post the Korean War? While she is touring the country, she will also attend the Seoul International Book Fair in hopes of seeing the latest picture books that are being imported and sold in South Korea.

Watch videos >> Guess Where I'm Going Next! / An Entire Library Just For Children's Literature? Yes, please!


Li An’s graduate student My-Thu Tran will embark on a two-week expedition to Chitwan National Park in Nepal. The primary goal of this trip is to investigate how invasive plant species have affected the livelihood and activities of local people in the park and surrounding areas. The fieldwork will consist of two primary endeavors: installing camera traps to observe the movements of wildlife and conducting informal interviews with local residents. This research undertaking is one component of the CNH-L: People, Place, and Payments in Complex Human-Environment Systems Project, which received funding from the National Science Foundation. 

Jessica Barlow will continue the Brownfields Project work to include site visits and community engagement events in National City.
Read More>> SDSU NewsCenter

Barlow and a team will also work on the Tijuana Historical Archives Project, involving digitizing and preserving historical archives housed in the Instituto Municipal de Arte y Cultura de Tijuana. 

Trent Biggs and Dan Sousa are co-advisors with M.S. student Stephany Garcia, will map water quality in the Tijuana Estuary using a remote-controlled boat, with collaborators from a local NGO Argonauts. Fernando Bosco will be onsite for some surveys. 

Another M.S. student Margot Mattson, will map wetlands in the Colorado River Delta with collaborators from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC), which includes a field visit to the Delta and working with UABC collaborators in Mexicali – Bosco will join the group. 

Pascale Marcelli, professor of geography and director of the Center for Better Food Futures at SDSU, and Lluvia Flores Renteria (biology) have summer programs that are linked to a USDA grant. Lluvia’s program is just over the border in Baja while Pascale’s is in San Diego.

Dan Sousa, NASA SARP faculty advisor will do fieldwork in Mojave Desert and LA with flights in a NASA airplane. In addition he will participate in field ecology and remote sensing around Carrizo Plain, Santa Barbara with The Nature Conservancy with incoming M.S. student Bruce Markman

Amy Quandt will conduct Interviews with producers and landowners in Kern County (southern Central Valley) to better understand the impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act on their production operations. This is with master’s student Gracie Bartel and funding by a USDA grant in collaboration with UCSB.

Quandt will also lead focus groups in Tanzania with Maasai pastoralists to understand how they are impacted by, and responding to,compound extreme events that occur year after year. For example, if there is a drought this year, will that impact their ability to cope and recover from drought next year? This is funded by an NSF grant.

In her third summer research project, Quandt will conduct interviews with farmers in San Diego County about the impacts of climate change and if and how they are adapting to these impacts. This will be done with graduate student Judy Bross and funded by an SDSU SEED Grant.


Gabriel Doyle will do research on “AI and Lies: Examining the Accuracy of Computer-Generated Texts” with SURP funding. 


Daniel Davis will work on a SURP-funded project titled “Navigating the Path: Understanding the Social and Identity Factors that Shape Undergraduate Career Decisions.”

This project explores the many sources of influence that contribute to undergraduate career decision-making.

The goal of the project is to determine which of the many factors show the most robust influence students’ career choices and why. Also, we will examine variation across groups of students based on major and demographics. The significance of this project is to increase our understanding of how students sort between the many messages they receive about potential career paths to craft their own preferences. 

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