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A Developing Dissertation

Like many graduate students, my dissertation has evolved from my initial proposal to analyze global newspaper coverage of water scarcity. After participating in the UMN Resilient Communities Project Fellows Program in 2020, I experienced first-hand how rewarding it is to work with a community partner on applied research. During a vacation to Spain in summer 2021, I became connected with a local wine expert, and an innocent conversation about climate’s effects on winemaking quickly spiraled into an ambitious community-engaged dissertation.

My dissertation research examines climate adaptation in the Spanish region of Andalucía, a prominent winemaking community on the Iberian Peninsula that is likely to experience increased thermal dryness and severe water stress (Droulia & Charalampopoulos, 2021). Faced with declining harvests and worsening grape quality, the Andalusian wine community is increasingly having to consider adapting their practices to a new climate reality, but my own interactions with community stakeholders suggest that affecting change in Andalucía is as much about the social as it is the scientific.

The entanglement of wine in Andalusian identity means that some wine producers perceive adaptation as abandoning the traditions, rituals, and practices that have defined them for centuries. Policymaking could force change, but communication between producers and the Spanish wine regulatory agency, the Denominación de Origen (D.O.), can be fraught and slow-moving. And while media coverage could improve these relationships, journalists often lack the wine and climate context needed for accurate reporting, leading to incomplete narratives that are rejected by producers and regulators alike. Ultimately, the interactions of these factions—producers, regulators, and the media—suggests the need for a humanistic case study that examines how climate adaptation is represented, negotiated, and decided at the community level.

My dissertation seeks to investigate the nexus of this stakeholder communication by asking the guiding research question: What does climate adaptation look like in the Andalusian wine community? Specifically, my project uses field interviewing and content analysis to explore how the Andalusian wine community defines a “climate expert,” how these experts define and use “climate knowledge,” and how the knowledge exchanged by these experts affects adaptive decision-making in this community.

Ultimately, my hope is that this research will demonstrate why understanding the cultural heritage that underpins ancient commodities like wine is a critical yet missing piece in economic and policy arguments for climate adaptation.


Droulia, F. E., & Charalampopoulos, I. (2021). Future climate change impacts on European viticulture: A review on recent scientific advances. Atmosphere, 12(4), 495.

Climate Adaptation in Andalucía, Spain: Bio
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