How did you decide to become a professor?
In my freshman year of college I was astonished to find out how little I knew about the world. For me college was this sudden and unanticipated exposure to an enormous stock of knowledge and perspectives that I didn’t know existed and I wanted to learn everything I could. I thought the best job in the world would be one where you were constantly learning, being challenged, and pushing knowledge forward. In my mind, that is the job of a professor.
What do you like most about your work?
I like solving problems related to environmental and natural resource policy. I enjoy the solitary aspect of research, but I also enjoy collaborating on research projects with students and faculty from various backgrounds. My work would be very different if I only learned from other economists.
If you could have any amount of funding to conduct research, what would you do, and why?
I would set up randomized control trials (RCTs) to answer some fundamental questions related to the economics of biodiversity conservation and mangrove conservation in particular. There are basic unanswered questions in these areas and RCTs are a clean approach to measuring causal impacts. However, unfortunately RCTs are also one of the most expensive types of economics research.
What advice would you give to students who are considering studying at SMEA?
When you join SMEA you are making an investment in yourself. The returns on that investment depend on your actions here. My advice is to learn several different skills and perspectives here to make sure you get the most out of that investment. Also, don’t be afraid of learning skills that are really challenging to pick up initially. Some skills that are hard to learn have high returns because of the fact that they are hard to learn, so they might be worth the upfront cost.
What is your favorite form of marine life, and why?
I don’t know if I have an all-time favorite, but horseshoe crabs are my current favorite. They have been around for 450 million years, they are related to spiders, their blood is powerful at detecting bacterial contamination, their eggs feed shorebirds, and you can save stranded horseshoe crabs on the beach for a free afternoon of fun. In other words, horseshoe crabs provide a wide array of ecosystem services.