Julie March was an environmental
science major at U.Va. (96), but with a minor in English
language and literature, shes a "scientist who knows
how to communicate."
communication skills came in handy while March worked for two years
in the countryside of northeast Brazil, teaming up with landless
farmers to assess the environmental impact of the agrarian reform
reform in Brazil is the process of redistributing land from the
hands of a few wealthy landowners to larger numbers of peasants
and poor workers.
"Sometimes the process is peaceful, where farmers will petition
the government for the land without forceful invasion. But sometimes
its not peaceful -- farmers will stake out land until theyre
able to get it," said March.
the government has tried to intervene in recent years, conflicts
have sometimes escalated to violence and deaths. Marchs research
combines the political and social movement of agrarian reform with
the environmental impact its having on the land.
publishing her research is not enough to satisfy March. Shes
committed to sharing her knowledge with the farmers to boost their
success in cultivating the land. "One of the neat things about
this project is that it impacts the people I work with," she
said. "A lot of times scientists do a project and never return
to the area. Ive gone back and shared information Ive
found. The people I work with in Brazil probably are not going to
read scientific journals, but this information is meant to be shared."
Geographic was so impressed with Marchs work in Brazil that
it named her one of its "Next Wave" scientists -- young
researchers doing cutting-edge work. In spring 2002, a National
Geographic film crew followed March for a week as she worked with
a community in the region of Pernambuco. Her work will be featured
on the "Next Wave" TV series airing in February and March.
through National Geographic gave March the opportunity to emphasize
her broad approach to ecological problems. "It was a way that
the issues surrounding agrarian reform could get some exposure and
also a way to showcase an applied ecology project. So much time
is spent in science talking about data that sometimes the big picture
-- the social and political context that creates the environmental
problems -- is not given enough attention."
filming, March asked permission from the community to allow the
filming while she worked with them. The farmers allowed it based
on their trust in March, "and on the condition that they would
get to see the film and pictures."
process was intense and repetitive, March said. "A lot of times
youd have to film something three times, walk the same area
three times, ask the same questions three times. The farmers thought
it was pretty strange."
as March makes her TV debut this month, travel and research remain
her top priorities. Working on policy issues with the U.S. Agency
for International Development through an American Association for
the Advancement of Science Fellowship, March will be traveling to
Honduras and West Africa this spring.
Wave" featuring Julie March will air March 5 at 3:30 p.m. Check