WSC Professor Phil Crossley Named Fulbright Scholar
April 29, 2010 -- This summer, Western State College of Colorado (WSC) geography professor Phil Crossley will travel to Mexico to continue research he started as a doctoral student in the late 90s.
This time around, however, he will be doing so as a Fulbright Scholar.
Crossley was named a Fulbright Garcia Robles Scholar for the 2009-10 academic year. This is his first receipt of the prestigious award, which is bestowed to select faculty and professionals for teaching or conducting research abroad.
Crossley will use his award to research and map area changes of chinampas, or “floating gardens,” in Xochimilco, Mexico. He also will teach a graduate-level class at Mexico City’s Autonomous Metropolitan University-Xochimilco campus.
For nearly 2,000 years, farmers have used this type of wetland agriculture in the Basin of Mexico, which is now threatened by urbanization and other factors. In 1987, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the area a World Heritage Site to preserve its history and the unique farming practices.
“I became interested in learning about indigenous people’s methods of wetland farming that seem to be more ecologically sustainable than modern farming,” Crossley remarked. “It struck me as significant that these people produce huge quantities of food in an environment that contemporary people think as only useful if the land is drained or for seasonal cattle grazing. The irony led me to explore it more.”
His doctoral research looked at how sub-irrigation and cooler temperatures affected chinampas and farming practices. On this visit, Crossley will spend three months mapping 40 years of change in the region. The chinampas are threatened by two problems: some areas are drying up while others are sinking and flooding, Crossley said.
Crossley hopes that the country’s policymakers will use his research and maps to protect the centuries-old farms from the effects of urbanization and erosion.
“Policymakers are not familiar with both issues that chinampa farmers are facing. My goal is to help them better understand what is happening and how much of the areas are affected,” he said. “This research is not just interesting to me. This is an opportunity for me to contribute to policy discussions that will benefit the communities that I benefited from with my doctoral research.”
Story by: Tracey Koehler, director of public relations and communications