Researcher Profile: Cassie Sevigny
Edited by Cassie Sevigny
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. This profile is based on an interview with Cassie Sevigny, a graduate student of economist Katrina Mullan at the time.
Why and how did you get involved with this project?
I was working on my Masters in Economics and needed a thesis subject, so I worked with Katrina to develop a research topic using the survey data collected in 2019. I was also part of the Bridges program at University of Montana, which encouraged interdisciplinary collaboration and practicing science communication. I wanted to see those in action through this project.
What was the biggest challenge of performing research?
I had never done research before, so managing my tasks in the unstructured time was difficult for me. The next hardest thing was trying to understand my model options and their implications, and coming up with a strategy that might yield a causal result. Also figuring out how to translate all that into Stata code.
What was your favorite part of being in the field?
I loved experiencing the rainforest in person, seeing the plants and animals of a different ecosystem, and learning about their biology and cultural importance from locals. I enjoyed conversations with locals, who shared perspectives and context that data can’t provide. I also learned a bit of Portuguese! That helped me communicate and connect with the Brazilian students.
What’s one thing you’ve learned while participating in this project?
I learned just how much work goes into organizing and carrying out an interdisciplinary project of this scale. I learned that Rondonia and Montana have a lot in common, with cattle ranching being a large aspect of local agriculture, and smoke from fires turning the sunsets brilliantly red. I also learned that Brazilians really value relationships and know how to welcome new people, with food and parties!
Why do you think the project is important?
This project is important for students like myself and the Brazilian interviewers to get a taste of what fieldwork is like. I appreciated the opportunity to experience data collection firsthand, which is rare for economics Masters students. A project like this that values relationships and providing opportunities to young scientists and collaborators really helps students gain relevant experience and get a start on their own research.