Leslie “Leke” Hutchins (he/him) is a Kānaka ʻŌiwi (Native Hawaiian) PhD Candidate in the Environmental Science, Policy and Management Department at UC Berkeley. His socio-ecological graduate work focuses on Indigenous food and data sovereignty and biodiversity conservation in Hawaiʻi. Specifically, socially, he talks to farmers to understand their motivations for farming, the barriers they face, and the type of impact they have on their respective communities. Ecologically, he utilizes tools from community ecology and genomics to understand how whole communities of insects respond to different levels of crop diversification. Ultimately, Leke hopes to create pathways for more Kānaka ʻŌiwi farmers to access land, expand the extent of Indigenous agroecosystems, and bolster functionally and culturally important insect biodiversity. As a queer kanaka in STEM, Leke seeks to create spaces through his scholarship where Indigiqueer can feel accepted and see themselves in the work. He has done this by working with professional societies to provide grants for Indigiqueer to attend STEM conferences, hiring Indigiqueer to conduct research, and writing pieces on the connection between queerness and ʻāina (land).
Leke received a B.S. in Conservation & Resource Studies and a minor in Food Systems from UC Berkeley. Through various research and internship positions, he worked with communities of color across Hawaiʻi and California to address conservation and food justice goals. In California, he conducted soil microbial research with Latine and Hmong farmers to assess soil health in the degraded soils of California’s Central Valley. These farmers arrived in the region within the past few decades and implemented diversified agricultural practices contrasting the surrounding industrial monocultures. In Hawaiʻi, Leke interned with Kamehameha Schools, where he learned how to apply biocultural conservation techniques in landscape restoration.
Fellow at a Glance
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Policy