Devon Sampson investigates the dynamic and creative ways that smallholder farmers adapt to a changing world. His work focuses on the biodiversity that farmers manage as part of their agroecosystems, and how that biodiversity contributes to the ability to make a living in increasingly unpredictable climactic and economic conditions. He has always been impressed by the ingenuity and skill of campesinos (small-scale farmers) and the very high levels of biodiversity that they manage in Yucatan. There, his academic research is focused on the ways that campesino farmers use very diverse gardens to get through droughts, hurricanes, price shocks, and other hazards that disproportionately affect the poor.
He uses a Participatory Action Research approach, working with the community to address questions that are relevant to their lives, involving young people from the community in the field work, and communicating results clearly and honestly back to the community. The interdisciplinary and collaborative approach of this study reflects the complexity of the relationship between farmers, the natural systems they interact with, and the political-economic contexts in which they must make a living. Devon draws on his experience as a gardener and farmer, a teacher and a community organizer in his work. He holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.