What do I do?
I'm lucky to be able to be a part of multiple exciting, diverse, and motivating projects. However, what I do for my own PhD requires I focus more narrowly on a few research questions. Read on to learn more about my specific research questions and what I am doing to help answer them.
What is an Agroforest?
First off, we need to answer one very important question, "what is an agroforest?"
Agroforests are complex, dynamic, agricultural ecosystems where trees and shrubs grow in tandem with crops and sometimes livestock. The scale, structure, and composition of an agroforest can vary depending on the use, location, and culture maintaining it. These systems typically contain many different kinds of plants and animals, both native and introduced, and therefore provide a number of important services for human and environmental health. They also are important conservation areas as they help to conserve and protect native plants, and the knowledge about those plants, that might otherwise be lost in agricultural systems where only one kind of plant is grown.
Research Question Number One
How do agroforests recover after cyclone disturbances?
Fiji is known to have its fair share of cyclone disturbances, however, never in recorded history had the country experienced one such as Cyclone Winston of February 2016. With winds gusting near 180 mph at landfall, this cyclone is known now as the strongest cyclone to make landfall in the Southern Hemisphere.
Little is known about how agroforests recover after cyclones, or how agroforests help people recover from environmental disturbances. The first part of my research sets out to help us answer the ways in which the plants in agroforests recover, and how the diversity of plants grown in agroforests change based on people's management decisions.
Research question number two
How do agroforests contribute to nutrition?
Countries in the South Pacific, and Fiji especially, are experiencing rapid increases in nutrition-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Much of this is due to dietary and lifestyle changes brought about by changes to economies, social systems, and additional factors.
Agroforests still provide many types of food plants and subsequently offer high levels of nutritional diversity (vitamins, minerals, energy). However, the increase in nutrition related diseases would suggest that there is a discrepancy between the types of food grown and the types of foods consumed today. The second part of my research then attempts to answer what a typical diet consists of today and the potential agroforests have to contribute to health and nutrition.
Find out more about Mesulame and Rosi on the People page!