Sustainable wine industry

Perry Gee with colleagues
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Mike Levy

Location: Central Coast

Impact: A win-win situation for California's environment and grape growers' bottom lines.

Ecology graduate student Mike Levy believes he can help create a more sustainable future for the California wine industry—and the California environment.

Levy’s focus? Understanding what makes grape growers along California’s central coast adopt environmental practices.

“Economics are an important part of the picture,” he says, “but so are social and personal motivations.”

His findings will help policymakers and outreach specialists show farmers how they can have better economics while improving their environment and communities.

Levy chose UC Davis to obtain his doctorate because “this university is second-to-none for interdisciplinary research that aims to impact the world beyond academia.” He was particularly attracted by the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior.

“The graduate group structure enables conversations across disciplines that wouldn't otherwise happen, and all the tough problems the world faces today require interdisciplinary solutions,” he says, adding, “That's part of why we're ranked No. 1 for agriculture and in the top 10 for environmental science.”

Levy is part of a movement to develop rigorous quantitative social science at UC Davis, and he points to the influence of his mentor professor, Mark Lubell, and the many graduate students who have preceded him at the Center.

“We’re working hard to develop that movement—to apply hypothesis-testing methods to complex social systems,” Levy says, “so we can understand how to implement policies that achieve goals like environmental sustainability.”