Ecological Economics Reviews

The USSEE is publishing Ecological Economics Reviews in collaboration with the NY Academy of Sciences.  The first issue will be published in January of 2010 with 16 papers.  You can find the table of contents at  We would like to thank those of you who reviewed or submitted papers to the first issue.  Your contributions were greatly appreciated.

We look forward to seeing additional submissions from you and your colleagues in future issues.

Ida Kubiszewski
Managing Editor
Ecological Economics Reviews
skype: ida.kub
p: 860.729.1126

USGS Mendenhall Research Fellowship in Ecological Economics

Ecosystem services (ES) by definition are the benefits received by people that are provided by ecosystems. The process of identifying, quantifying, and accounting for the economic value of ES has been recognized as a valuable tool for the efficient allocation of environmental resources and management investments on public lands. To permit the practical application of ecosystem services assessment and valuation information in management planning, methods and tools need to be developed that can utilize this information to identify effective management activities and establish optimal or priority management sites. Maps of service provisioning and flow can provide information critical to the identification of suitable management activities on a landscape. Valuation of services and flows can reveal potentially hidden social costs and benefits and internalize them in the process of prioritizing management activities (Troy and Wilson, 2006). The ability to optimize service flows and values associated with trade-offs in the decision making calculus would permit the development of priority management plans that integrate both activities and locations (for example, Polasky and others., 2008; Ligmann-Zielinska and others, 2008).

Few ES research efforts to date have effectively identified, mapped, and modeled both the provision and use of (or supply and demand for) specific ES. Moreover, the spatial and temporal flow or movement of ES across the landscape from ecosystems to people is poorly understood and has rarely been modeled. Accounting for the spatially distributed provisioning, flow, and consumption of ES will provide critical information for use in land management and planning. Spatial knowledge of ES flows in particular is important for the eventual establishment of markets, and by explicitly identifying providers and beneficiaries, can provide information critical for the establishment of payment schemes. This knowledge would further improve the ability of planners and land managers to identify locations and opportunities for conservation and restoration that preserve flows of key ES to human beneficiary groups, and to determine where development or extractive resource uses are more and less compatible with preservation of ES flows to beneficiaries.

This Mendenhall Opportunity focuses on examining spatial patterns of ES provisioning and consumption, and the identification of land management strategies that can optimize service provisioning and the sustainable economic value derived from public lands. Postdoctoral research will be done in close cooperation with existing collaborative ES research partnerships within the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), other Federal agencies, county government, and local universities. A number of potential project sites exist, and applicants need to consult with the Research Advisors to identify the one best suited to their interests. The Mendenhall Fellow will build on and improve existing methods, or develop new methods as appropriate for mapping and valuing ES flows, and facilitate trade-off analyses by utilizing stakeholder constraints to identify optimal land management strategies.

Mendenhall project proposals will require a flexible approach that can accommodate multiple methods of ES assessment, as well as both monetary and non-monetary valuation. We anticipate that the applicant will be able to utilize ES provisioning information obtained by a variety of methods and from a number of different project participants who have or are in the process of modeling and mapping specific services. This provisioning information needs to be connected to use by beneficiary groups, and along carrier-specific flow paths from ecosystems to people. For some services valuation may be required; for others it will be established. The applicant will identify the necessary spatial data to populate any selected models, and will work with disciplinary experts to improve both the theoretical soundness of the models and to calibrate them where possible. Methods comparison will be encouraged where possible.

Project proposals must be able to incorporate both baseline and scenario assessments. Scenarios, based on pre-selected environmental stressors for example,vclimate change), will be developed and assessed at potential project sites to account for a range of anticipated future conditions. Proposed methods for the identification of optimal land management strategies will thus require consideration of distinct potential future conditions in addition to the present condition of the landscape. At present, scenarios represent the best available means for anticipating ecosystem change. Management strategies must therefore be designed with the aim of maximizing the achievement of management objectives under a range of potential future conditions.

The results of this research will increase USGS’s capability for mapping, valuing, and optimizing ecosystem service flows to assist with decision making on public lands. We expect that the research will produce new methods and tools that can be incorporated into public domain software to facilitate technology transfer to a wide range of land management problems that can benefit from ES assessment and valuation information.


Ligmann-Zielinska, A., Church, R.L., and Jankowski, P., 2008, Spatial optimization as a generative technique for sustainable multi-objective land-use allocation: International Journal of Geographical Information Science, v. 22, no. 6, p. 601–622.

Polasky, S., Nelson, E., Camm, J., Csuti, B., Fackler, P., Lonsdorf, E., Montgomery, C., White, D., Arthur, J., Garber-Yonts, B., Haight, R., Kagan, J., Starfield, A., and Tobalske, C., 2008, Where to put things? Spatial land management to sustain biodiversity and economic returns: Biological Conservation, v. 141, p. 1505–1524.

Troy, A., and Wilson, M.A., 2006, Mapping ecosystem services: Practical challenges and opportunities in linking GIS and value transfer: Ecological Economics, v. 60, p. 435?449.

Proposed Duty Station: Denver, CO; Fort Collins, CO

Areas of Ph.D.: Geography, ecology, economics, sociology, mathematics, and/or computer science (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines but with knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered).

Qualifications: Applicants must meet one of the following qualifications: Research Geographer, Research Ecologist, Research Economist

(This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above. However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant’s background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist.)

Research Advisor(s):; Jay Diffendorfer, (303) 202-4070,; Todd Hawbaker, (303) 202-4303,; Lynne Koontz, (970) 226-9384,

Human Resources Office contact: Janet Presley, (303) 236-9573,

Elinor Ostrom breaks Nobel mould

The economics profession needs to be shaken up. Ostrom’s Nobel prize should encourage us to take a fresh approach

Kevin Gallagher,
Tuesday 13 October 2009 17.00 BST

The economics profession is in such disarray that one of the Nobel prizes in economics this year went to political scientist Elinor Ostrom – the first woman to be awarded the economics prize. This is an excellent choice (in any year) not only because of what Ostrom has contributed to social theory but also because of how she goes about her work.

In a nutshell, Ostrom won the Nobel prize for showing that privatising natural resources is not the route to halting environmental degradation.

In most economics classes the environment is usually taught as being the victim of the “tragedy of the commons”. If one assumes, like many economists do, that individuals are ruthlessly selfish individuals, and you put those individuals onto a commonly owned resource, the resource will eventually be destroyed. The solution: privatise the commons. Everyone will have ownership of small parcels and treat that parcel better than when they shared it.

Many environmental experts also reject the tragedy of the commons argument and say the government should step in.

Ostrom says the government may not be the best allocator of public resources either. Often governments are seen as illegitimate, or their rules cannot be enforced. Indeed, Ostrom’s life work looking at forests, lakes, groundwater basins and fisheries shows that the commons can be an opportunity for communities themselves to manage a resource.

In her classic work Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, Ostrom shows that under certain conditions, when communities are given the right to self-organise they can democratically govern themselves to preserve the environment.

At the policy level, Ostrom’s findings give credence to the many indigenous and peasant movements across the developing world where people are trying to govern the land they have managed for centuries but run into conflict with governments and global corporations. Some economists on the frontier of their discipline have started to use Ostrom’s insights in their work. In their recent book Reclaiming Nature: Environmental Justice and Ecological Restoration, James Boyce, Liz Stanton and Sunita Narain, show how communities in Brazil, India, West Africa and even in the United States have managed their resources in a sustainable manner when given their rightful access to their assets.

Indeed, Boyce and his collaborators find that communities should be paid for their services, since they can sometimes do a far better job than government or corporations at managing resources. Indeed, “payment for environmental services” has become a buzzword in development circles. Now even the World Bank has a fund for PES schemes across the world.

In terms of methodology, Ostrom proves her findings three times over. As opposed to many economists who never leave the blackboard, Ostrom often conducts satellite analyses of resource depletion to measure amounts of degradation. Second, she actually goes out into the field and performs case studies of human and ecological behaviour all across the world. However, she doesn’t stop there. When she gets back from her fieldwork she conducts behavioural experiments to see if random subjects replicate her findings in the field.

The Nobel committee should be applauded for recognising such rigorous theoretical and empirical work. Shining light on Ostrom is a call to economists to spend a lot more time analysing human behaviour, rather than assuming that we are all rational selfish individuals. It is also a call on economists to become more empirical and to find ways to validate their theories.

Adopting Ostrom’s approach will not only help us forge a better relationship with the natural environment, but will help us become more realistic about the economy in general. It’s time for a fresh approach to both. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2009
Visit The Guardian and see other Gallagher columns:
For more on GDAE’s Globalization and Sustainable Development Program:

Ostrom & Williamson win Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences 2009

Elinor Ostrom

Co-Nobel Prize in Economics Sciences 2009

Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA

“for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons”

Oliver E. Williamson

Co-Nobel Prize in Economics Sciences 2009

University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA

“for his analysis of economic governance, especially the boundaries of the firm”

For more information you can check out the Nobel Prize website or the New York Times article by Louis Uchitelle.

MSU Ph.D. Graduate Research Assistantship

Title: Ph.D. Graduate Research Assistantships, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan

Job Description: Graduate research assistant wanted to join interdisciplinary team on NSF supported research (Coupled Natural and Human Systems #0815966). The project, Globalization and the Connection of Remote Communities, addresses the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of expanding market, migration, and technology networks on remote human settlements in twelve small communities along the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. Student will conduct field research, write manuscripts for publication, and contribute to the generation of additional grant proposals. Assistantship starts Fall of 2010 although funds will be available to support preliminary field work in the summer of 2010. Please refer to the project web site for additional information:

Qualifications: Seeking outstanding student in the social sciences with strong interdisciplinary interests related to the conservation of biodiversity. Candidate’s primary academic interest should be in a relevant social science (e.g. resource economics, sociology, anthropology, international development, geography) with some training, experience, or interest in the environmental sciences, ecology, conservation biology, fisheries or wildlife. A bachelor’s degree is required although a master’s degree is preferred. Must have excellent GPA and GRE scores. A strong work ethic, good verbal and written communication skills, ability to work independently and as a productive member of a research team are required. International travel and work experience as well as fluency in Spanish are strongly preferred.

Salary & Benefits: Four years of funding (Ph.D.) at a half time appointment of 20 hours per week with a monthly stipend, tuition waver, and health benefits. For more information on graduate assistantships at MSU see

Application Instructions: Interested candidates should send the following information electronically to Dr. Daniel Kramer at by October 30th, 2009. Pre-application inquiries are welcome.

  1. Cover letter indicating your research, academic, and career interests
  2. CV
  3. Academic transcripts (unofficial copies are fine initially)
  4. GRE scores (unofficial copies are fine initially)
  5. Names and contact information (including email addresses) for 3 references

Contact Information:
Dr. Daniel Kramer
370 North Case Hall
James Madison College and the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife
East Lansing, MI 48825
Tel: (517) 432-2199

Temporary Federal Postdoctoral Position at Atlantic Ecology Division in Narragansett, RI

US Environmental Protection Agency

National Health and Environmental Effects Laboratory
Postdoctoral Program Atlantic Ecology Division Narragansett, RI
Temporary Federal Position

Benefit-cost analysis of “gray” versus “green” infrastructure Project Number:  AED-09-14-09-203
Division: Atlantic Ecology Division
Branch: Watershed Diagnostics Branch
Geographic Location: Narragansett, RI

Project Description

The position will support research expected to yield method(s) for benefit-cost analysis of the use of traditional man-made (or “gray”) infrastructure versus the use Green Infrastructure (GI) and Low Impact  Development (LID) to manage storm water. EPA’s Office of Water (OW) has  endorsed the incorporation of GI and LID practices into the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), either through the Load Allocation process for current and future nonpoint sources, or through TMDL Implementation Plans or equivalent watershed management plans. Stormwater management practices can be implemented through either regulatory means (e.g., stormwater permits, or local ordinances) or through incentive-based programs. Guidance is needed by EPA Regions, States, watershed/coastal management organizations and local communities on the  benefits and costs of traditional “gray” infrastructure used to manage storm water as compared with GI and LID practices. Estimation of benefits will require valuation of ecosystem services provided by green  infrastructure. Research will be coordinated among EPA’s National Heath and Environmental Effects and National Risk Management Research Laboratories; Office of Research and Development’s Water Quality and Ecosystem Services Research Programs; and EPA’s Stormwater and TMDL Programs.

Projected Duration of Appointment: 3 years
Educational Requirements:  Ph.D. in Ecological Economics, Ecology,Environmental Science, Environmental Engineering, or closely related field.
Specialized training or experience preferred:  Cost-benefit analysis,ecological economics, valuation of ecosystem services, evaluation of best management practices
Scientific Contact/Principal Investigator: Naomi Detenbeck,, 401-782-3162
Application information: Due Date: October 30,2009 For application instructions click here.  Please do not apply directly to the scientific contact.

SCB Conference July, 2010

The Society for Conservation Biology is holding its annual meeting in Edmonton early July next year and the Social Science Working Group is trying to ensure that economics are well-represented at the meeting again this year (the last time it will be in North America until 2014).

For more information click here. You can also contact Dr. Murray A. Rudd, Assistant Professor/Canada Research Chair in Ecological Economics at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial University of Newfoundland in Corner Brook, NL, Canada A2H 6P9. You may also contact him at 709-639-7595 or email.

International 350 Teach-In on October 22

The US Senate debates climate legislation this fall. Bring that debate­ and the eyes and ears of your Senator– directly to your school. On October 22nd, join the International 350 Teach-In, and invite a representative from the district office of your US Senator. We have a final chance now to engage students in the debate before the Senate acts­ or fails to act­ on legislation that will determine their future. And as educators, we have a profound responsibility to not let this moment pass.

The Teach-In is being held in conjunction with the International Day of Action called by Bill McKibben and his team at­ over 1450 groups around the world are taking part. Through the Teach-In, bring this critical conversation about a safe and prosperous future to campus.

Planning the Teach-In is simple: host a 90 minute session, with five to eight faculty speaking for 3 minutes each. We have a sample letter to your Senator and will have sample questions for when their reps arrive, as well as downloadable posters and other materials.

Learn more on our organizing call, Wednesday 9/23. The organizing conversation follows the National Climate Seminar, next week featuring Stanford climatologist, Dr. Stephen Schneider. Dr. Schneider will discuss the latest generation of climate model forecasts: is the outlook for the planet getting worse? Is it too late for meaningful action?

Later in the term, look to hear from Bill McKibben, the Honorable Edward Markey, Hunter Lovins, Andy Revkin and others. Click here for National Climate Seminar details.

Thanks for your ongoing work engaging students and citizens in these critical debates. And please register your own views with your US Senators every week.

Professor Eban Goodstein,
Director National Teach-In on Global Warming Solutions

A Critique of Ecological Economics

While I praise ecological economics for its environmental strengths, I point to several areas that I believe are weak or erroneous. Specifically, I critically examine the fields historical vision, its perspective on capitalism, its use of the term natural capital, its interpretations of value and cost, and its definition of optimal scale.


Comments on my views by USSEE members – either publicly on YouTube or privately by email – are welcome.

Frank Rotering [Independent Economic Thinker]
Vancouver, Canada

Transforming the Economy for a Just and Sustainable World