About me

Growing up in Colombia, South America, I usually felt immersed in what the Literature Nobel prize Gabriel Garcia Marquez denominated "magical-realism," a blend of extraordinary events with harsh reality. Colombia is the second most biodiverse country on the planet and has the most species of birds than any other country in the world. However, these unique biodiversity and ecosystems are threatened by narcotrafficking, illegal mining, and internal conflict that has forced 7.7 million farmers to flee their farms. This background continues motivating me to advance my research on sustainability and expand my observations to other contexts by asking the following sustainability policy questions: How can conservation go hand-in-hand with better opportunities for smallholder farmers? In addition, if there is a chance to find innovations that simultaneously enhance economic opportunities, involve young farmers and women, and protect biodiversity - how solid and sustainable are those opportunities in front of events like increased climate variability and market volatility? In other words, what are the drivers, threats, and tools for the "sustainability of sustainability"? 

I joined the Yale School of the Environment (YSE) in Spring 2022 to support their call to action and diversity by broadening and deepening their translational research agenda on smallholder farmers and sustainability. An overwhelming majority of studies are not relevant to the needs of smallholders and their families. Moreover, few studies included original data or any participation from farmers -Nature. My research focused on climate services, smallholders' perceptions, digital advisory tools, land management practices, and conservation in tropical crops like coffee.

Before joining YSE, I worked at the Columbia Climate School International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) as an  Earth Institute Postdoctoral Research Scientist and Fellow. While there, I joined the Financial Instruments Sector Team (FIST) and the Columbia World Project: "Adapting Agriculture to Climate Today, for Tomorrow" (ACToday). My research focused on understanding innovative ways to incentivize and scale-up smallholders' generation, translation, and use of climate information required for co-design climate risk management instruments and adaptation strategies. I started a new agenda on digital communication technologies and gamification. Also, I led an interdisciplinary group of researchers in designing a customized advisory tool that integrates the economics and the climate science of coffee to provide useful and relevant information to smallholder farmers and coffee stakeholders. Beyond long-term predictions of climate change and the effect on coffee regions, individual farmers need to know how to effectively adapt today and implement specific land-use practices in coffee systems. Our pilot started at the origin of coffee, Ethiopia.

I received my Ph.D. in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University. While there, I focused on the sustainable agriculture of coffee and led diverse multidisciplinary research projects where I evaluated the impacts of smallholders' participation in specialty coffee value chains. Also, I modeled profitable agroecological cropping systems that preserve bird populations. I also hold degrees from the University of Pittsburgh (MPA) and Universidad de Los Andes-Colombia (BA, MSc.).

Besides my research, I served as Principal Instructor for the Economics of Sustainability Management course at the M.Sc. in Sustainability Management Program, Columbia University. I have also served as an instructor and teacher assistant at Cornell University and University of Pittsburgh for the following courses: Resource Economics, Strategy in Emerging Markets, Game Theory, Behavioral Economics, and Quantitative Methods. Besides, I served as Adjunct Professor for Universidad de Los Andes and Universidad del Rosario in Colombia, where I taught Macroeconomics and Colombian Political Economy.

Earlier in my career, I worked at the Central Bank of Colombia at the Research Unit and the Macroeconomic-programming Department, developing multivariate time series analysis and neural networks to forecast macroeconomic variables required for monetary policy decisions. In 2010 I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship. Since then, I have actively enrolled in bilateral US-Colombia initiatives to promote academic and cultural exchanges and rural development.

Juan Nicolas Hernandez Aguilera

Ph.D. in Applied Economics | 2018

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

Thesis: “Three Essays on the Economics of Sustainable Coffee Systems”

Committee: Miguel Gomez (Chair), Dr. Jon Conrad and Dr. Arnab Basu


Master in Public Administration | 2012

University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Major in Policy Research and Analysis

Minor in Development Planning and Environmental Sustainability
Certificate in Latin American Social and Public Policy Studies

M.Sc. in Economics | 2006

Universidad de Los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Thesis: “A Review of The Macroeconomic Determinants of Household Consumption: the Colombian Case”

Download CV        
Fulbright Colombia.

Fulbright Colombia

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. In 2010 I was honored with a J. William Fulbright Scholarship and since then I am vey compromised in fostering bilateral understanding and cooperation between U.S. and Colombia.

View details