Postcard from the Field: Zack Werner
By Zack Werner
The Connections between Water and Rural Production project (CAP) investigates whether and which farmers adapt their production systems when they experience water variability, what adaptations they make, and whether these adaptations reduce income losses when droughts occur. Improved understanding of these feedbacks will inform efforts by government agencies and civil society to help farmers respond to water scarcity. As a Geography Masters student at San Diego State University, I'm studying the impacts of deforestation related wildfire activity on the regional climate. I was brought on board the project to build meteorological stations and assist with hydrologic field data collection in Rolim de Moura, Rondônia, Brazil. I learned a ton during my two weeks in Brazil and had such a great time conducting professional science in the field.
In my first week, I met the project coordinators, agricultural researchers Elvino Ferreira and Cleiton Cavalheiro, and students from both US and Brazilian Universities. I helped install our first meteorological station which will provide data about rainfall and the soil moisture of clay pasture lands in Rondônia. In my second week we installed a second meteorological station on a pasture that has sandy soil. This second station will allow us to compare the rainfall and soil moisture of sandy and clay soils to see if the soil composition affects pasture water availability. A majority of my second week was spent collecting stream measurements and soil samples from watersheds and pasture lands in Rolim de Moura.
What I enjoyed most about my first week was the hospitality. My very first night there I was met with stuffed Tambaqui that was roasted over a wood fired oven. The people were some of the nicest I have ever met! I also got to try Brazilian pastel, a crisp, deep-fried pastry, at a local farmers market. It was an unforgettable week.
For a few days I stayed at a very nice resort in Ouro Preto d'Oeste. There I met even more researchers outside of my field of Geography. I was working on an interdisciplinary team of agricultural scientists, economists, hydrologists, and student surveyors. It was during this time that I had the opportunity to get involved in other parts of the project. I helped prepare digital maps for the surveyors reaching out to farmers about land use. In my downtime, I hiked to a waterfall and traveled to a nearby water park to explore and have fun!
I had an incredible experience joining this project and traveling for fieldwork in Rondônia, Brazil. The two weeks I spent in Brazil gave me a unique perspective to start publishing my thesis research with Dr. Fernando de Sales, a Co-PI on the project. I will never forget the people I met and I hope to stay involved in the project beyond graduation. I am so thankful for the opportunity. I would encourage any student, undergraduate or graduate, to get involved with this project if possible. You won’t regret it!