Researcher Profile: Katrina Mullan
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 changes in rainfall, what adaptations they make, and whether these adaptations reduce income losses expected when drying occurs. Improved understanding of these responses will inform efforts by government agencies and civil society to help farmers adjust to changes in water availability. This profile is based on an interview with Principal Investigator Katrina Mullan.
Why and how did you become involved in this project?
This project brings together researchers from different disciplines who all had interests in the relationships between deforestation, agriculture and water in the Brazilian Amazon. I started working in Brazil as a postdoctoral researcher in 2009, and then worked with different members of the current team on various projects before starting this one. We all had a desire to answer policy-relevant questions and a willingness to collaborate across disciplinary boundaries to do so. Based on these common interests, we identified what was important to understand about the consequences of climate change and deforestation for farmers in the Amazon region and a plan for how we could combine our skills.
What is your favorite part of being involved in research?
My favorite part is when researchers bring their different knowledge and perspectives to discussions of research questions, methods and findings, and that results in a deeper understanding of the issues than if we were each working alone.
What has been the biggest challenge of performing research?
The biggest challenge for me is ensuring that the team keeps moving forward with the individual tasks that make up the project, while also communicating frequently with one another so that we achieve our objectives of learning about how the climate, hydrological and agricultural systems interact with one another and what that means for how climate change and deforestation affect human welfare. Everyone working on the project has lots of other things going on, so it's important to decide what aspects of the research are most important to focus on.
What’s one thing you’ve learned while participating in this project?
While collecting data in Brazil, I learned that many people in the Amazon region, particularly young people, are concerned about the potential impacts of deforestation on the sustainability of agriculture, and want to contribute to research that helps identify ways to maintain livelihoods and protect natural resources.
Why do you think this project is important?
A lot of research on the Amazon focuses on the global consequences of deforestation, while decisions about whether to protect forest are made nationally or locally. This project will help to understand how deforestation affects the wellbeing of those living in the region through effects on climate and water availability. Our goal is to provide information that can be incorporated in local decision-making, and to identify actions that can support development while minimizing negative environmental impacts.