April 15, 2021: IRES Student Symposium

The IRES Student Symposium showcases the research of our RES graduate students.

Date: April 15, 2021

Time: 12:30-2:15pm (Pacific Standard Time) via Zoom

Symposium Schedule

12:30pm to 1pm –  Annie Mejaes

1pm to 1:15pm – Break

1:15pm to 1:45pm – Ginni Braich

1:45pm to 2:15pm – Sara Nawaz

Classifying and estimating aquaculture subsidies and their risks to the marine environment

Abstract: Aquaculture is a rapidly growing sector in global food production and is increasingly recognized as an integral component of aquatic food systems to meet the rising global consumption of seafood per capita. Some of this growth is subsidized by governments, but only a handful of country-scale studies have quantified, but not attempted to classify, aquaculture subsidies. However, for the aquaculture sector to contribute sustainably to food and economic security, it is crucial that if governments decide to provide subsidies, the funding is deployed efficiently and without exacerbating ecological harm. So, I endeavor to develop a bespoke classification system for aquaculture. I examine the relative risks of aquaculture systems on the marine environment and classify subsidy types, before bringing together how subsidies may exacerbate or lessen the relative risks posed by different aquaculture systems. Then, I examine the aquaculture practices and subsidies of four of the largest mariculture producers in the world, China, Indonesia, Norway, and Chile. Together, these four countries represent over 70% of mariculture production globally. This work highlights that subsidies need to be carefully considered within the mariculture sector.

Annie Mejaes (MSc Student)

Supervisor Rashid Sumaila

Bio: Annie Mejaes is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia, with a focus on fisheries economics. Under the guidance of Dr. Rashid Sumaila, her thesis explores the nature and scope of different forms of aquaculture and their economic contributions. Prior to starting the program, Annie conducted marine conservation, environmental, and geospatial work across government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academia in Hong Kong, Chile and the USA.





Examining the Impact of GM Adoption on Crop Yields

Abstract: Since their advent in 1996 genetically modified (GM) crops have been rapidly adopted by farmers, despite being a source of significant controversy. Opponents argue the environmental and social risks of GM crops while proponents maintain they reduce production losses, asserting that GM crops are key to food security as they produce higher yields. While understanding the implications of GM crops goes beyond just yield, it is nevertheless an important outcome. To date the analysis of GM crop yields have not been nuanced, relying largely on plot work or correlation studies without adequate controls.  The recent availability of GM adoption rate data presents a new opportunity to investigate the historical impact of GM adoption on yields using national data.  In this study, statistical and causal methods were employed to compare yields between GM-adopting and non-adopting countries while also considering dependent and cofounding variables.

Ginni Braich (PhD Candidate)

Supervisor Navin Ramankutty

Bio: Ginni is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability under the supervision of Dr. Navin Ramankutty.  Growing up in a farming family, her research interests are centered around agricultural production including trends in yields and the impacts of climate change as it relates to current and future food security.

She holds a B.Sc. in Biology from the University of Calgary and a M.Sc. in Plant Molecular Biology from the International Max Planck Research School for Molecular Biology.  Her professional background includes working for a government funding agency, supporting research in sustainable agriculture in collaboration with other governments, NGOs and farmer groups.


Beyond naturalness? Exploring social dimensions of novel gene-editing technologies in agriculture

Abstract: Proponents are heralding gene-editing and related technologies as crucial solutions for adapting agriculture to the dual challenges of climate change and food security. These technologies, however, also seem likely to pose important risks, ethical dilemmas, and governance challenges. In her doctoral thesis, Sara explores how these technological shifts are necessitating new thinking around the ‘naturalness’ of crops and livestock—raising heated justice-related debates around the global governance of agricultural genetic resources, and destabilizing national biosafety regulations for genetically engineered crops worldwide. She also suggests new dimensions for understanding public perception of gene editing that are based on system-level critiques of food systems, rather than technical specifics or individual attitudes.

Sara Nawaz (PhD Candidate)

Supervisor Terre Satterfield

Bio: Sara is a PhD Candidate at IRES, supervised by Terre Satterfield. Prior to beginning the PhD, she worked as a research assistant at the World Resources Institute and as a consultant at Environmental Resources Management, both in Washington, D.C. She has a B.A. in economics from Swarthmore College and an M.Phil. in Development Studies from the University of Oxford. In her free time, she rock climbs as much as possible.