Areidy Beltran-Peña applied for the Ford Foundation Fellowship four times; after receiving honorable mentions and implementing feedback, this year she took home not only the Ford fellowship but also one from the U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE.
Beltran-Peña, a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley’s Rausser College of Natural Resources, won the two national fellowships for her research on global impacts of climate change. The two fellowships will provide her with support including stipends, transportation and access to resources at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to further her research.
As a first-generation student, Beltran-Peña said she has had to work to support herself and her education since being an undergraduate student, including teaching undergraduate classes as a GSI. Though she said she enjoys teaching, she is looking forward to focusing solely on her research.
“These fellowships will give me the intellectual freedom and time to focus on advancing my dissertation and expanding the boundaries of knowledge for the remainder of my PhD,” Beltran-Peña said in an email.
Beltran-Peña’s research focuses on how socioeconomic change and climate change affect a global region’s abilities to be self-sufficient in terms of food, water and energy.
Her research evaluates the self-sufficiency of 165 countries by sustainability, changes in diet, population, agricultural intensification and climate change, as well as how climate change will lead to a global decline in food self-sufficiency, according to an abstract of one of her studies.
She noted that Africa was a “major hot spot” for vulnerability to climate and food insecurity, adding that most African countries are not currently self-sufficient and won’t be under a changing climate. Beltran-Peña said she is currently working on a case study to increase understanding of climate change on food insecurity in Africa and “identify opportunities for adaptation.”
“Understanding this, will allow governments, businesses, organizations, people and other actors to design and implement mitigation and adaptation measures to protect today’s most vulnerable populations, ensure food, water, and energy security for current and future generations,” Beltran-Peña said in the email.
In addition to a global study, Beltran-Peña said her dissertation will move from a global scope to a local one focusing on the effects of diminishing snowmelt on California’s agricultural sector. She added that the state grows a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits.
Collaborating with campus professors Manuela Girotto and Paolo D’Odorico and Berkeley Lab researcher Alan Rhoades, the team will develop a framework for assessing California’s snowmelt-reliant agriculture under a changing climate and spotlight the risks posed by warming temperatures, Beltran-Peña noted.
“Being persistent is the message, not giving up, if you want something go for it,” Beltran-Peña said. “Impostor syndrome is a thing, and we go through it too. Make sure you keep going.”