2020 Seed and Bridge Grantees

A group of students are inventing a "jalapeno popper" which is a cross between a bell pepper and a jalapeno pepper. The group has been cross breeding the plants for five seasons and are a few seasons away from a final product. The group was photographed at the student farm where they meet every Tuesday to tend to the plants and discuss their progress. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Project Summaries for the Public Impact Research Initiative Grants 


Seed Grants


Citizen Science in Prison Gardens: Building Capacity for Transformative Learning at the Intersections of Nature and Self

UC Davis leads: Ryan Meyer, Center for Community and Citizen Science; Laci Gerhart, Department of Evolution and Ecology; Heidi Ballard, School of Education; Chris Jalladah, Center for Community and Citizen Science
Non-university partner: Insight Garden Program

People who are incarcerated live in often dehumanizing conditions, lacking access to programs and opportunities for self-enrichment and mental health benefits, work and life skills, and connections to others... For more than 18 years, the Insight Garden Program (IGP) has been delivering a year-long environmental education curriculum through which people who are incarcerated lead the design, creation, and cultivation of in-prison permaculture gardens, develop emotional and social skills, and prepare for reentry as empowered environmental stewards. IGP is a nationally recognized evidence-based program that improves prison culture, promotes positive interactions among people in prison and prison staff, builds bridges between racial boundaries, helps participants advance toward parole, and supports the reconnection of people in prison with their families and communities. Through this project, the UC Davis Center for Community and Citizen Science will collaborate with IGP to incorporate citizen science lessons and activities into IGP curriculum, and field test these lessons and activities in prison gardens with incarcerated people in Central and Northern California. With citizen science, participants engage in scientific research through activities such as collecting data, conducting analyses, sharing findings, mentoring colleagues, and designing novel investigations. Citizen science can deepen learning, leading participants to create change in their lives, landscapes, and communities​. Research and our own experience has shown that people who live in prison are interested in science and desire more opportunities for science education. Citizen science can provide such opportunities, with IGP’s guidance and help surmounting the practical challenges associated with implementing programs in prisons. Furthermore, developing science knowledge and skills can foster marketable skill sets for incarcerated people, which they may use to analyze and directly address environment- and science-related challenges in their communities and for lifelong learning and literacy in science.  The long-term goal of our collaboration with IGP is to establish a first-of-its-kind California program in which people in prisons collaborate on science that has real meaning and impact for the participants themselves, and beyond prison walls​.


Collaborative evaluation of the agronomic performance of Sheba farm’s Teff varieties at UC Davis

UC Davis lead: Edward Brummer, Department of Plant Sciences
Non-university partner: Sheba Farms LLC

Teff (Eragrostis Tef) is the world’s smallest grain crop, is gluten-free and nutrient-dense. The crop was domesticated in Ethiopia between 4000 BC and 1000 BC and is used to make the traditional Ethiopian flat bread, injera... While Teff production for grain has historically been limited to Ethiopia, there is growing demand for the grain globally as a gluten-free and nutrient dense health food. Indeed, the grain is also an excellent source of zinc, iron and essential amino acids making it an excellent choice for plant-based protein sources. Teff is considered to have a similar potential as other super grains such as quinoa. Therefore, the overall goal of this proposed work is to leverage the research infrastructure and expertise of UC Davis to deliver valuable insights to Sheba Farms on which Teff lines to grow and how best to grow in this region. Our near goals are to answer the following questions: 1 - Which line is best adapted to our region? 2 - What planting date allows for optimal utilization of winter rains? 3 - What management strategies will reduce tef lodging and grain loss?  The ultimate indicator of our impact will be the acres planted to Teff, which will be dependent on whether Sheba Farms is able to begin a profitable business, which will benefit from the information derived from our collaboration.


Community Data Mapping and Dissemination: A collaboration between Resilient Yolo and the Perinatal Origins of Disparities Center

UC Davis leads: Jennifer Phipps, Department of Human Ecology; Leigh Ann Simmons, Department of Human Ecology
Non-university partner: Resilient Yolo Partnership

We propose a collaboration between the Perinatal Origins of Disparities (POD) Center at UC Davis and Resilient Yolo (RY), a community organization working to build resiliency in Yolo County residents through raising awareness of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the important role that trauma-informed social services plays in promoting health equity... The POD Center focuses on understanding and addressing health disparities, starting from pre-conception and encompassing all the way through early childhood. The goal of this partnership will be to work with RY to better understand the needs of our own community and to leverage relationships already established by RY for conducting engaged research activities. This will be an important collaboration for our community given data that demonstrate maternal health disparities. For example, pregnant women in Yolo County are: (1) nearly twice as likely as other pregnant women in California to be hospitalized for mental illness; and (2) nearly 40% more likely to develop gestational diabetes. These data suggest a critical need for academic-community partnerships to promote maternal health equity, which will have downstream positive effects on child, family, and community health and well-being. The POD Center seeks to conduct research studies that identify and intervene where health disparities begin. Our partnership with RY will help us to determine the most relevant gaps in knowledge to guide the research trajectory of our center, so that our engaged research is responsive to identified origins of health disparities in our community, recommendations that pregnant and postpartum women have for addressing these disparities, and solutions that maximize academic-public-private partnerships. The specific aims are: (1) Map academic and community partner data to identify strengths and opportunity gaps; (2) Present findings to key stakeholders for interpretation of findings from Aim 1; (3) Co-sponsor the “Building a Resilient Yolo 2020 Summit,” an annual gathering of organizations that serve children and families in Yolo County. The PIRI grant will help us to establish a collaboration with RY, one that we anticipate will become a strong and lasting partnership that will provide us with a means to access key members of our community and provide an opportunity for RY to leverage the resources of UC Davis to achieve their goal of increasing resiliency among Yolo County residents.


Enhancing Research Capacity for Yurok Food Sovereignty

UC Davis lead: Katherine Kim, Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing
Non-university partner: Yurok Food Sovereignty Project

Yurok country, the region of the Klamath Basin encompassing the Yurok Tribe reservation, has been defined in recent times as a food desert even though there are abundant natural resources that historically sustained the population... High levels of poverty, reliance on heavily processed food from federal assistance programs, and loss of traditional and tribal knowledge has contributed to health disparities which are seen starting from birth. In order to counter this food desert narrative the Nature Rights Council, a local non-profit organization in the Klamath Basin, launched a pilot program called the Yurok Food Sovereignty Project for and with 30 households of native women who are pregnant or new mothers and their families. The initiative applies modern harvest and food processing practices and restores practices of intergenerational reciprocity through the Victorious Gardens home gardening assistance service and a subscription-based food delivery of sustainable protein sources. With this Public Impact Research Initiative seed grant, UC Davis and the Nature Rights Council will develop a research collaboration dedicated to building community-driven food sovereignty strategies based on culturally-relevant data and sound evidence. Through a combination of stakeholder engagement, training, and application of research skills in the evaluation of the Yurok Food Sovereignty Project, we will enhance the community’s capacity for health disparities research and program evaluation as well as strengthen the quality of university’s community-engaged research.


Golden Journey Empowerment and UC Davis Collaborative

UC Davis leads: Laura Kair, School of Medicine and Director of Well Newborn Care; E. Bimla Schwarz, School of Medicine
Non-university partner: Jasmine Carranza, Golden Journey Empowerment

Breastfeeding is important for optimal infant and maternal health. Experts recommend infants exclusively breastfeed for their first 6 months of life and continue ongoing breastfeeding for at least 1 year... Infants who breastfeed have lower risk of ear, gut, and respiratory infections, allergies, diabetes, and leukemia. Women who breastfeed have lower risk of cardiovascular disease and breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers, among other benefits. Unfortunately, only 25% of US infants exclusively breastfeed for six months, and dramatic disparities in breastfeeding adversely affect African-American families. Furthermore, many of the same illnesses breastfeeding protects against disproportionately affect African-American women and infants. UC Davis clinical and health services researchers, in partnership with Golden Journey Empowerment, a peer support group for African-American pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women in Sacramento, seek to examine the lived experience of pregnancy and breastfeeding among postpartum African-American women in Sacramento. The collaborative research group will conduct individual qualitative, semi-structured interviews with postpartum African-American women participating in the Golden Journey Empowerment peer support group and analyze data using an inductive approach to identify major themes. This guidance from local women will help UC Davis researchers to then inform ways to improve clinical care provided to African-American women receiving care at UC Davis and to develop culturally-appropriate interventions to improve breastfeeding rates among African-American women who receive care at UC Davis and throughout Sacramento.


How We Look: A Public Impact Research Initiative

UC Davis lead: Julie Wyman, Department of Cinema and Digital Media
Non-university partner: Little People of America

“How We Look” is a collaboration with Little People of America’s Dwarf Artist Coalition that will critically and creatively intervene in the media representation of Little People. Little People have a unique relationship to representation... Unlike some minority communities, our legacy is not one of invisibility, but of hyper-visibility. Images of people with dwarfism can be found throughout the history of art, from ancient Greek sculpture and paintings by Baroque masters, to photographs by 20th-century artists like Diane Arbus and Mary Ellen Mark. As performers in carnival sideshows, our role was to “shock and amaze!”—a legacy that continues today in the frequent appearance of Little People on reality television. This visual legacy has a huge impact not only on how others see us, but on how we as Little People see ourselves.

Filmmaker Julie Wyman leads a participatory process with other Little People (LP) artists, culminating in a series of short films that re-imagine our histories and tell our stories through our own lens. The project has three stages: a community workshop, film production, and strategic impact. Continuing my longstanding artistic practice, I will develop these films using a participatory process that will begin with a two-day workshop for five LP artists co-led by myself performer Sofiya Cheyenne. We will be guided by the question -how do we look? meaning both, how are we seen? and how do we see the world?

The long-term goals for this project are 1) to create more opportunities for Little People to participate in the creation of our own images; 2) to produce media that has the potential to reach a wide general audience and contribute to attitude changes around disability and bodily difference; and 3) to innovate with a participatory workshop method, piloted with students at UC Davis that ensures community leadership in the creation of such images.

This project will have public impact through the strengthening of relationships with non-university partners including Little People of America, the distribution of short films, and the development and application of new models of participatory image-making.


Partnership to support California Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations

UC Davis lead: Gail Feenstra, Acting Director Agricultural Sustainability Institute and UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program
Non-university partners: COOK Alliance and Foodnome

UC SAREP proposes partnering with The COOK Alliance, a fiscally sponsored project of a non-profit organization, to organize research with and support for county-permitted Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (MEHKOs)... MEHKOs are small businesses run by home cooks preparing and selling a limited number of hot meals from their home kitchens. One of the intentions of county permitting of MEHKOs is to create legal and regulated options for home cooks currently operating informal businesses, many of whom are immigrants and members of minority communities. Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations promise to be an effective path to entrepreneurship for limited-resource people. The option for California counties (and cities that have their own Environmental Health Departments) to allow permitting of MEHKOs within their counties was approved by state passage of The Homemade Food Operations Act (AB-626) in 2018, amended by AB 377 in 2019. As of January 2020, Riverside County is the only California county that has permitted MEHKOs, although others are in the process of implementing regulations for MEHKOs or are considering doing so. The COOK Alliance, with a national membership of nearly 5,000 cooks and advocates, has been the primary advocate for home cooks, supporting county advocacy efforts for opting in to AB-626 and providing education for county staff and home cooks about MEHKOs.

The project would:
1) Work with Riverside organizations to plan community-based research about the challenges and benefits to home cooks of county-permitted MEHKOs,
2) Determine needs and potential for UC ANR involvement in training and technical assistance for MEHKOs,
3) Organize a statewide convening for collaboration among all those involved in California’s MEHKOs

Research on the success of early adopters of the allowance for MEHKOs and organization of convening with those involved will help counties, communities and local organizations learn whether MEHKOs are successful in job and enterprise creation. This research will help California counties decide whether to opt in to AB-626, and will help communities and UC ANR decide how to best support home cooks in developing successful enterprises. Long-term indicators of success will be growth in the number of successful California Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations, and the scaling up of some of these businesses to more traditional restaurants or mobile food facilities or catering operations.


We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For

UC Davis lead: Claire Napawan, Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design
Non-university partner: Sunrise Movement

The past three decades have yielded substantial efforts to inform American citizens about climate change. This field is known as climate change communication (CCC)... The bulk of CCC efforts focus on simply telling people about climate change. However, this communication model usually fails to foster action on climate change and has been shown to sew apathy and disengagement. This prohibits impacted communities from taking the action necessary to address the issue. Because of this, researchers and communicators alike are realizing the need to move from an information-deficit model to instead focusing on climate engagement. Climate engagement is “a state of personal connection that encompasses cognitive, affective and/or behavioral dimensions.” Many social scientists speculate that such engagement, especially in deep and protracted ways like collective action, is necessary to address climate change. By co-creating knowledge in collaboration with young climate activists from the San Francisco Bay area, We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For addresses the important question: What kinds of factors facilitate youth to deeply engage with climate change? Through a collection of oral history interviews, project team members will 1. Better understand key factors that motivated youth to engage with collective climate action; 2. Disseminate new strategies for engaging youth with climate change; 3. Produce and share audio and visual materials from the oral histories in a public showcase; and 4. Develop an archive of current youth activists that might inform future and/or longitudinal studies. The project is a collaboration with the Sunrise Movement, a diverse, youth-led coalition that uses direct action and civil disobedience to work for governmental action on climate change. Their mission is to “build an army of young people to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process” (Sunrise Movement, 2020). In addition to addressing effective climate communication, the project will yield resources to support this and other youth climate engagement organizations.


Bridge Grants


Collaborative Rural Community Development Impact Assessment for Global Learning Programs

UC Davis leads: Nancy Erbstein, School of Education; Jonathan London, Department of Human Ecology
Non-university partner: Hands On Institute

This project will design and pilot an instrument for assessing the community impact of community engaged global learning programs, in order to address the tendency of such programs to lack robust assessments of program benefits to host communities... This effort will be pursued in the context of analyzing the community-scale impacts of an innovative global learning program called Nepal: Community, Technology and Sustainability. This program has run for two cycles over a three-year period, involving cohorts of UC Davis and Nepalese university students in four month international, intercultural and inter-disciplinary learning experiences with community partners in Machhapuchhre, Nepal; the community has requested a third cycle. The project will be carried out through a collaboration among Nancy Erbstein (School of Education & Global Affairs) Jonathan London (Department of Human Ecology), Samrat Katwal and Bijaya Poudel (Hands-On Institute), and in partnership with key project leads and community leaders in Machhapuchhre, Nepal. This project will directly benefit the community of Machhapuchhre, as findings will inform design of the next cycle of projects through the UC Davis program; in addition, they will be prepared to ask others working in their community to employ such an assessment. Hands On Institute, a Nepali NGO that works to impact communities in Nepal and students from around the world by connecting them with each other, will make use of this tool in their programs. In addition, this instrument will be shared with community-engaged global learning programs at UC Davis, at Nepalese universities, and within the field of global education more broadly.


Humanizing Deportation Exhibit at Border Line Crisis Center, Tijuana: “Juntos Somos Más”

UC Davis leads: Robert Irwin, Department of Spanish and Portuguese; Leticia Saucedo, School of Law
Non-university partners: The Bridge El Puente and Borderline Crisis Center

We will stage a 2-week public exhibition of the Humanizing Deportation project in Tijuana at the Border Line Crisis Center. Modeled after an exhibition that we staged at the Enclave Caracol cultural center, it will feature screenings of digital stories, and also portraits of community storytellers previously taken in Tijuana by project photographer Leopoldo Peña...

The exhibition will allow us to disseminate materials from our audiovisual archive, while also offering a platform for a series of community events:
1) Launch reception featuring screenings of Humanizing Deportation videos produced in Tijuana, and an open discussion among our Tijuana based community collaborators, members of our academic team, and the general public. A similar opening event at Enclave Caracol attracted SRO crowds and significant local press coverage.
2) 2-day legal consultation forum hosted by faculty and students from the UC Davis Law School; this will include open walk-in consultations, as well as prescheduled meetings with several of Humanizing Deportation’s community storytellers whose stories have been prescreened by Law School collaborators and identified as cases that indicate potential for legal interventions; any cases showing high potential for success will be taken up pro bono by members of our Law School team or the NorCal legal community.
3) We will work with Border Line Crisis Center, which will donate the space for the exhibition, to stage a community building event, featuring music performed by local rappers, in order to generate community pride and to inform people (especially deported childhood arrivals to the US) of services available to them through the Center’s local networks.
4) We will work with The Bridge/El Puente, an organization formed by migrants and allies of the fall 2018 migrant caravan, to host a presentation of the book Caravaneros, written by caravan migrant and organization cofounder Douglas Oviedo; this book, whose publication team includes several Humanizing Deportation project members, is scheduled for release later in 2020; this event, which would include a musical performance by Douglas and The Bridge/El Puente colleagues, would mark his first return to Tijuana, where he became a beloved poet, musician and activist during the ten months he lived there while awaiting resolution of his asylum case under the Remain In Mexico program. We expect that this event will generate significant news media coverage in both Mexico and the US.


INSTRUMENTAL: The Elayne Jones Story

UC Davis leads: Grace Wang, Department of American Studies; Julie Wyman, Department of Cinema and Digital Media
Non-university partners: Orchestrate Inclusion, Percussive Arts Society, and SF Symphony

INSTRUMENTAL: THE ELAYNE JONES STORY is a strategic impact media project and campaign aimed at fostering diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the field of classical music... Produced in collaboration with several music organizations and focused on the life of African American timpanist Elayne Jones, our project consists of an original short documentary, a participatory web portal that features UCD student-produced media, and a comprehensive impact campaign to activate and utilize this media.

There is a burgeoning movement in Western classical music to upend traditional hierarchies and to reimagine this traditionally exclusive cultural field. Renowned orchestras such as San Francisco Symphony are engaged in critical DEI efforts to diversify the classical music tradition and challenge fundamental assumptions of belonging. The Percussive Arts Society (PAS), the world’s largest percussion organization, is actively working to diversify its membership and empower historically underrepresented groups through music education. And organizations like Orchestrate Inclusion aim to transform orchestras at the level of leadership, boards, and policy-making. These efforts are tied to a broader culture shift to advance critical DEI efforts in the field of classical music, as evidenced by multiple initiatives funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Ninety-two year old Elayne Jones is a key figure whose work of linking musical advocacy with social justice prefigures this current moment. INSTRUMENTAL, a collaboration between American Studies scholar Grace Wang and feminist documentary filmmaker Julie Wyman, is a critical, historical, and creative media research project that places Jones’ life, work, and fight for inclusion in classical music within broader dynamics of race, gender, and social justice. Together, with our key partners at SFS, PAS, and Orchestrate Inclusion, the project culminates in a strategic impact plan designed to connect this essential history and perspective to this contemporary movement. Partnering with organizations who are contributing to our media project and who will eventually be the recipients of the educational and media resources we are producing, the film and its accompanying media materials furthers our collective goals of facilitating conversation, awareness, and policy change in and beyond the field of classical music.


Investigating Financial Aid Application and Take-up Behavior of High School Seniors

UC Davis leads: Paco Martorell, School of Education; Scott Carrell, Department of Economics
Non-university partner: California Student Aid Commission

Policymakers and practitioners have a strong desire to reform California’s financial aid system, but lack basic information about financial aid application and take-up rates for students seeking postsecondary schooling... This Bridge Grant will deepen a newly established state-level research-policy partnership between researchers in the California Education Lab at UC Davis and leaders from the California Student Aid Commission. Through an unprecedented match of student-level data available via our longstanding partnership with the California Department of Education and our collaborators at CSAC, we will investigate how financial aid applications and receipt vary by student subgroups, schools, and regions across California. Results from the study will serve to inform state policy discussions and institutional-level practices.


Mapping the “Leftovers”: Participatory Q’eqchi’ Maya Cartography for the Cultural Reforestation of Northern Guatemala

UC Davis lead: Liza Grandia, Department of Native American Studies
Non-university partner: Indigenous Peasant Association for the Integrated Development of Peten (ACDIP)

Literature abounds on the depressing tropical “d”s—deforestation, degradation, and destruction—with less attention to resilient “r’s”—restoration, recovery, and regeneration (Chazdon 2014)... Yet, even in the best-case scenario that parks and other primary forests continue absorbing 11% of global carbon, current greenhouse gas emissions still outnumber forest sinks 10:1. Aggressive programs of reforestation and natural succession are needed to restore a billion hectares over the next half-century to push carbon capture past 30% (Chazdon 2008). Guatemala’s northern Petén is one of those denuded places where a small investment in participatory indigenous land use planning could help catalyze a cultural reforestation of village commons. Although they have lost more than half their territory to land grabs since 2000, Q’eqchi’ elders and other village authorities have an ambitious vision for reforesting their territory with spiritually- significant species for ceremony and cultural community revitalization. In their Mayan language, they are calling this “the leftovers” movement (Movimiento “Xeel”). In reciprocal collaboration with ACDIP, a Q’eqchi’ peasant federation in northern Guatemala representing 162 villages (roughly one tenth of the country’s territory), this project will compare and contrast land sales over the last ten years (2010-2020) with a previous decade in which 46% of small farmers lost their parcels to land grabbers. Modifying and improving upon a prior participatory mapping methodology used for a formal 2010 World Bank evaluation of land sales, villagers will document both land use and ownership on cadastral maps overlaid on Google Earth images to prioritize ares for cultural reforestation of communal forests. Q’eqchi’ students from a new indigenous high school established by ACDIP in 2019 will be trained to coordinate the village mapping with their elders. Maps prepared for this research will then be left with village elders to help initiate a process of territorial planning to reforest communal forests around sacred sites.


Sacramento County Food Distribution Agency Volunteer Recruitment, Management and Retention Study

UC Davis lead: Marcella Gonsalves, School of Medicine
Non-university partner: Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services

Every month, over 150,000 of the most vulnerable individuals in Sacramento County rely heavily on the free food they receive from hundreds of food-providing agencies including the largest food distributor in the county, Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services (SFBFS). Without these agencies, many families and seniors would go hungry and even further lack the resources they need to live productive and healthy lives... Supporting each agency is a cadre of volunteers who willingly provide their time to help distribute food to those in need. Yet, according to SFBFS, many of the partner agencies have reported that the supply of volunteers is often unpredictable, unstable and, for some agencies, dwindling to a point where they will no longer be able to serve their communities. Unfortunately, the agencies have not been able to research this issue with volunteers further.

The purpose of this project is to change these conditions by gathering the initial evidence to inform subsequent action. With a representative from Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services, the research team will examine and explore volunteer recruitment, management and retention issues for 220 food-providing agencies in Sacramento County.

Potential short-term indicators of impact include the number of partner agencies that make changes to their volunteer recruitment, management and retention efforts based on the results of the study. Similarly, another potential indicator is additional resources SFBFS dedicates to supporting agencies’ volunteer efforts. Long-term indicators may be an increase in the number of volunteers supporting the partner agencies as well as an increase in the number of people who receive food from the agencies each month.