CAL Summer Research Field Notes 2021

Research projects took place in a variety of international and national locations during summer 2021. Here, we highlight some of the notable work in which our dedicated students and faculty were engaged.

Fishing nets

Fishing equipment for a technique known as Haapua fishing.
Photo courtesy of Paige Dawson.


Master’s Student Perspective: Paige Dawson

“During five weeks in summer 2021, my research focused on participatory marine management of the lagoon in Moorea, French Polynesia. My work is part of the ReCoPeM project (Recherche Collaborative pour la Pêche à Moorea) with Professor Matthew Lauer (SDSU) and Jean Jean Wencélius  (SDSU) in collaboration with. Sally Holbrook (UC-Santa Barbara) and Andrew Rassweiler (Florida State University) that aims to study the interactions between lagoon fishing practices and ecological dynamics of coral reefs.

“The main objective of my research is to understand the functioning of the participatory marine management framework under Moorea’s Plan de Gestion de l’Espace Maritime (PGEM), which established the first Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) network in the Pacific. The PGEM is currently in the final stages of an innovative revision process focused on citizen consultation with fishers, residents, and other users of the lagoon.

Dawson and Tapao

Paige Dawson (left) and Caroline Tapao, one of her research counterparts on Moorea.
Photo courtesy of Paige Dawson.

“Understanding the economic, political, social, and cultural elements of the PGEM will play an important role in analyzing the keys to success and obstacles of the management plan, which can also serve as a model for other communities in the Pacific interested in collaborative and participatory resource management methods.

“I’ve been interested in community-based conservation for awhile, but now that I’m actually doing research on it, it was a little surprising to see just how many moving parts there are in trying to make a project work and how complicated it can be.

“It’s been very interesting to talk to different people in the community and hear their perspectives on the past, present and future of the PGEM and the different ways in which they frame the success and issues of managing the lagoon (be it political, economic, social, cultural or otherwise).

I’m also incredibly grateful to my research counterparts, Caroline Tapao and Tevaiti Mare, as I wouldn’t be able to have nearly as much insight into this topic without their contributions and assistance with translating.”

Master’s Student Perspective: Shannon Nelson-Maney

“The work I’ve done in Moorea, French Polynesia, revolves around how information and knowledge is created and shared between various communities. These communities include the local population such as fisherman, surfers, school teachers, church leaders, members, participants, employees, and heads of NGOs and the scientific community on Moorea.

“On Moorea there are two well known research centers which are Gump, associated with UC Berkeley, and CRIOBE, associated with École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE), the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), and the University of Perpignan Via Domitia (UPVD). Along with these centers there are NGOs and other environmental conservation organizations like Te Mana O Te Moana, the Coral Gardeners, and Oceania. There is also the local population who has a vast wealth of knowledge about the environment.

I am interested in understanding this knowledge, how it is created, how it is used and shared and in the end how it is beneficial for conservation of the marine environment. I hope to better understand the paths of communication between these groups and work to potentially strengthen these same paths.

“What has surprised me most about my research subjects (I’d say I’m less surprised and more honored) is that they are so kind and welcoming to me as an outsider. Everyone who I have worked with and talked to, both local people in Moorea and scientists who have come from other countries to work, have been very passionate about their work and willing to share what they are doing with me in order for me to get a better understanding.”


Graduate student Miriam Kopels reviews COVID-19 research notes.


Associate Professor Casey Roulette and students worked with current and former SDSU students who self-identify as struggling with food and housing security. The team collected data in fall 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and are now in the data analyses phase.

In partnership with the Social and Economic Vulnerabilities Initiative and the Economic Crisis Response Team (ECRT), they recruited participants. More than 100 students completed an online survey and more than 50 completed the follow-up telephone interview.

Roulette said, “There are two aims to the project, one applied and one theoretical. At the applied level, we are interested in learning more about student experiences living with food and/or housing insecurity and how things like food security relate to the demographic, economic, and/or health condition of each participant.

In preliminary findings, Roulette discovered, “that during COVID-19 students felt less food secure, like they were putting in more effort to maintain their economic wellbeing, and that fewer resources were available to them compared to before COVID-19. “At the theoretical level we are interested in using life history theory (LHT) to examine functional responses to environmental stress. LHT is a framework developed in biology but also used in anthropology and psychology that is used to explain variation in developmental, reproductive and other life phases of organisms,” he said.

“In preliminary analysis, we found that students who are more food insecure tend to perceive greater levels of extrinsic mortality risk (they think that they have a reduced chance of living to age 75, even if they put in maximum effort to maintain health), and students who perceive more extrinsic mortality risk are putting less effort into maintaining their economic wellbeing and security.”


Oscar Sanchez, an undergrad student mapped sediment plumes reaching the ocean from the Tijuana River. He was on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - Center for Earth System Sciences and Remote Sensing Technologies (NOAA- CESSRST) fellowship for underrepresented minority (URM) students. Read more.

Micah Palomino, an undergrad in environmental science, in the summer undergrad research program, mapped reservoirs in the Brazilian Amazon along with Hargun Kaur, an undergrad in environmental science, on emergency funding.

Rina Cao, a high school student (starting at MIT in fall), studied hydroclimate analysis in the Brazilian Amazon.

Master’s and Ph.D. students worked with the undergrads.

Sean Quezada, M.S., worked on sedimentation rates in the Tijuana Estuary. He was on a NOAA- CESSRST fellowship for URM students.

Stephany Garcia, an incoming master’s student in the NOAA- CESSRST Bridge program, worked on real-time water quality monitoring in the Tijuana Estuary. Other graduate students included: Emily Deardorff, Camila Abe, and Justin Bissell.

Center for Latin American Studies

Leslie Lopez spent time in the Yucatan conducting preliminary research for her thesis.

Maximiliano Trujillo headed to Mexico City to conduct archival research for his thesis.

Elybeth Alcantar was in Oaxaca to further her research and prepare for her doctoral research at UT Austin in the fall.

Anabel Gutiérrez began research on the Haitian diaspora in Tijuana.

All of these students received funding support from the SDSU and Tinker Foundation Field Research Grant.