Daniela Soleri

Lecturer, Daniela Soleri, Environmental Studies
Lecturer in Environmental Studies

Office Location

Bren Hall 4019


Food Crop Diversity and Management, Crop Genetics, Systems of Knowledge, Citizen Science/Participatory Research, and Food Gardens

Lecturer in Environmental Studies Program; Associate Research Scientist in Geography Department


  • Ph.D., Arid Land Resources--Ethnoecology, University of Arizona, minor Plant Sciences


Daniela Soleri's formal training was an interdisciplinary mix of anthropology and plant sciences, resulting in a PhD in ethnoecology with a minor in plant sciences from the University of Arizona. 


Positively responding to the climatic, environmental and social changes we face requires making use of diverse forms of knowledge and expertise. In agriculture, local knowledge often reflects people’s goals and many realities of the environments they are working in. My research investigates local informal knowledge, practices and outcomes in human management and use of crop plant diversity, including the consequences for adaptation to climatic, environmental and social changes. Frequently this involves quantifying farmers’ and gardeners’ practices, and documenting the theory and values underlying those practices in un- or under-represented communities. Understanding this knowledge, expertise, and these practices, is the basis for partnerships between communities and scientists that are effective and based on respect and equity.

I have had the good fortune to work biologists, plant breeders and crop geneticists, and with farmers in a number of locations: Hopi and Zuni Native American farmers in the US southwest, investigating changes in crop diversity over time, and cultural values related to intellectual property rights in traditional crops; in Oaxaca, Mexico quantifying the phenotypic and genetic consequences of farmer seed selection in maize and beans, farmers’ genetic perceptions regarding their maize, and their assessments of risk related to transgenic maize; in Cuba and Guatemala also documenting farmers’ assessments of risk related to transgenic maize; in Oaxaca, Mexico and southern California traditional foods of Oaxacan origin and their relationship with crop diversity and cultural identity; the stories and genetic characterizations of historic olive plantings in the greater Santa Barbara area. I have co-authored, with David A. Cleveland, and illustrated the 1991 book Food from Dryland Gardens, on food gardening in arid areas. Food Gardens for a Changing World is a new book for the western US expected in 2017, co-authored with David A. Cleveland and Steven E. Smith, about food gardens in changing climates, environments and societies. Most recently I began research on seed libraries and other small scale, community seed efforts in California, to create a baseline of where that movement is and explore how public scientists might partner with and support grassroots seed sharing through participatory or “citizen” science. I am a member of the Citizen Science Association (CSA) and a co-founder and co-chair of the CSA’s Integrity, Diversity and Equity Working Group.


ES 158: Cultural & Bio Diversity Food Plants
ES 193CS: Citizen Science
ES 193EC: Ethnoecology