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Galt named to MacArthur chair for global conservation/sustainability

By Dave Jones on November 30, 2015 in University

UC Davis has named Ryan Galt to the MacArthur Foundation Endowed Chair in Global Conservation/Sustainability.


The appointment lasts five years, as do other appointments to a group of MacArthur chairs that are available to nine UC campuses on a rotating basis. The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation provided the endowment.

Galt is an associate professor of agricultural sustainability and society in the Community and Regional Development division of the Department of Human Ecology; a Provost’s Fellow at the Agricultural Sustainability Institute; and an associate geographer with the Agricultural Experiment Station.

He describes himself as “a broadly-educated geographer whose teaching and research interests are centered on the relationship between society, agriculture, food and the environment.”

He was nominated for the MacArthur chair in connection with his research proposal: “Just Chocolate? Impacts of Ethical Cacao-Chocolate Commodity Chains on Biodiversity Conservation, Crop Genetic Diversity and Livelihoods.”

Galt is no stranger to the MacArthur Foundation, where he served as a graduate student intern and then as cartographic and research consultant in conservation and sustainable development.

“I actually began working on the issue of biodiversity conservation in cacao (and coffee) farms when I was an intern there,” Galt told Dateline UC Davis. “I wrote a report on it … and had always been meaning to take it up as a research direction, so now is my chance.” 

Last year he took the “Chocolate Intensive” course at Oakland’s Food Craft Institute, where he learned more about many of the issues in the world of cacao-chocolate around the world.

He said the class also gave him “a great introduction to the new American chocolate movement and many new chocolate makers who are trying to source cacao in a more ethical and ecologically-friendly way” — and this helped inspire the new research for which he received the MacArthur chair.

Galt received a bachelor’s degree in geography from UC Berkeley, and master’s and doctoral degrees in geography from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He joined the UC Davis faculty in 2007, starting as an assistant professor and advancing to associate in 2013. He is the author of Food Systems in an Unequal World: Pesticides, Vegetables and Agrarian Capitalism in Costa Rica.

1 chair morphs into multiple chairs

The MacArthur Foundation gave $1.2 million to UC in 1981 to establish a chair at UC Berkeley. Gerald Rubin, professor of genetics and development, held that chair until his retirement in 2008.

By that time, the endowment had grown to $10 million. With the foundation’s approval, UC split the MacArthur endowment into five subaccounts for chairs around the system.

One of those subaccounts evolved into a permanent chair at UC Irvine, leaving four subaccounts to be shared by the other campuses.

The Los Angeles, Merced, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz campuses benefited first. Now it is Davis’ turn, along with the Riverside, San Diego and San Francisco campuses. (Berkeley voluntarily opted out of the first rotation.)

Each campus decides whether to use its allocation to fund one chair or two. UC Davis opted for two, and previously announced the appointment of history professor Charles “Chuck” Walker to the MacArthur Foundation Endowed Chair in International Human Rights.

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Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,