UCGHI Center for Planetary Health Leadership, Federico Castillo, PhD and Samantha Ying, PhD, Awarded California Climate Action Grant

November 21, 2023

In partnership with the state of California, the University of California awarded more than $80 million in California Climate Action Grants to four-year academic institutions across the state. These two-year grants are designed to spur implementation of solutions that directly address state climate priorities. The funding will support University of California researchers and partners in tackling some of California’s toughest climate change challenges through innovative research and community engagement.

“As the state’s preeminent research institution, the University of California is proud to partner with the state to pursue our shared climate goals. The innovations catalyzed by the Climate Action awards will make all of our communities safer, more sustainable, and more resilient,” said UC President Michael V. Drake, M.D. “I am grateful to the state Legislature and Gov. Newsom for providing funding to support this critical research on climate change in California.”

Among the many UC Santa Cruz-based awardees, a $1.99 million grant was awarded to help to equip California farmworker communities with new tools to address the damaging impacts of climate change on their health and livelihoods. Politics Professor and Global & Community Health Program Executive Vice Director Matt Sparke, PhD will lead the project, with support from a broad contingent of 18 UC Santa Cruz faculty and partners at 10 community organizations and four other universities across the state, including UCGHI Center for Planetary Health Associate Director, Federico Castillo, PhD and Co-Director, Samantha Ying, PhD.

The team will map out climate-related risk factors—like extreme heat, wildfire smoke, drinking-water pollution, flood damage, and crop failures—that disproportionately affect farmworkers and increase their vulnerability to ill-health, stress, and depression. A new bilingual app will share this information so that farmworkers, health workers, and farm supervisors can easily identify geographic “hotspots” of risk. The app and associated website will also include a health vulnerability checklist to help users identify key resources available or needed in their area to mitigate climate-related harms, and users can submit their responses to provide new data on these issues.

The project will additionally build partnerships among farmworkers, community health workers, growers, governments, and other stakeholders in the Pajaro, Salinas, and San Joaquin Valleys to develop solutions for the health and safety of farmworkers. Students from UC Santa Cruz and local high schools will support these efforts. Researchers will also study how new strategies and technologies that agricultural businesses might use to adapt to climate change could affect farmworkers, and the team will test some nature-based solutions with positive potential.

“Our approach is ultimately about adapting to the challenges that come with living in a climate-changed world, but this is not a passive adaptation or a vision of resilience that is about returning to the status quo,” Sparke said. “The goal is really to build back better—based upon the deep knowledge that farmworkers, growers, and government officials already have—in ways that enable people to be positive change agents.”

Learn more about the other four UC Santa Cruz projects here.