Category Archives: USSEE

Graduate Research Assistantship in Ecosystem Service Valuation at Michigan State University

Michigan State University (MSU) announces the availability of a 3-year PhD research assistantship (RA) in ecosystem service valuation and program design in the Great Lakes basin. The successful applicant will join an interdisciplinary research team that is designing, testing, and implementing a pilot Payment for Environmental Services (PES) program to compensate farmers for adopting practices that benefit aquatic ecosystems.

The RA will join MSU faculty in contributing to all phases of this research. The time commitment will be 20 hours per week for a period of three years, beginning in summer of 2012. Compensation will include a stipend of least $1860 monthly, plus health benefits and a tuition waiver.  Continued employment is contingent upon satisfactory performance and progress toward degree.

The successful candidate must be accepted for admission to the PhD program in either the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE) or the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation & Resource Studies (CARRS) at Michigan State University.

Qualifications: Candidates must meet the qualifications for admission to one of the participating PhD programs.  For AFRE, required qualifications and application information can be found here. For CARRS, application details can be found here. RA candidates are expected to be motivated, interested in the role of economic institutions in environmental policy, and committed to interdisciplinary research.

Applicants should apply to one of the two PhD programs following the relevant instructions. Applications must be submitted to the Graduate School. In the academic statement, please indicate interest in this research project, along with details about your relevant experience and abilities.  Review of applications will begin February 1, 2012 and will continue until a suitable candidate is identified.  For more information, contact in AFRE: Scott Swinton ( or in CARRS: John Kerr ( or Robert Richardson (

Release of book entitled What’s the Economy For, Anyway?

David Batker, organizer of the 2005 USSEE Conference and co-founder of Earth Economics, has just released a book with John de Graaf entitled What’s the Economy For, Anyway? Why It’s Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness (Bloomsbury Press, $25). Based on the 2010 film of the same name, this highly accessible and humorous book is intended for university students, professors, lay audiences and policy makers alike. It has already received a number of positive reviews! The book is available for purchase through booksellers listed on this page (and only $15.88 though Amazon for a limited time!).

Americans are working longer hours for lower pay, fewer benefits, less time for loved ones and no vacation. We’re postponing retirement or ditching it altogether. We’re told the best thing we can do for the economy is to work, borrow, spend and consume. Corporations keep raking in record profits; the one percent keep getting richer. You’re working for the economy – it’s not working for you. How did we get into this mess? How do we get out of it?

John De Graaf and Dave Batker provide fresh and convincing answers. This one-of-a-kind economics book is not only a fun read, it makes a compelling case for new economic goals, measures, and policies, and provides solutions at the scale of the problem.

De Graaf, a writer and filmmaker, and Batker, an economist and environmentalist, take on our wrong-headed obsession with growth at all costs. They show how our chief economic measure, Gross Domestic Product, is an outdated tool. It counts cigarettes and lung cancer costs as positive. It recorded the sale of toxic mortgages that sank banks and picked taxpayers’ pockets as an economic boon. It does not count the value of nature, of good health, of friends and family or that most important measure of success, happiness.

WTEFA? began as a film. De Graaf and Batker are funny, insightful and much-sought-after public speakers. They teamed up to make a 40-minute film that could be described as Econ 101 meets Jon Stewart. The film has been viewed online thousands of times, and on DVD has proved particularly popular in college classrooms, so they expanded its ideas into a book.

“It’s time for a solidarity economy, one that recognizes we’re all in this together,” they write. “You could call it capitalism with a human face.” What’s the Economy For, Anyway? succeeds brilliantly at putting a human face on the most pressing issue of our time.

More information about the book and its authors can be found in the official Press Release.

Graduate research assistantship in Agri-Food Systems at Michigan State University

The Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation & Resource Studies (CARRS) at Michigan State University (MSU) announces the availability of a research assistantship (RA) in Agri-Food Systems: Consumer Research beginning Fall Semester, 2012. This two-year project will focus on consumer perceptions of bird control techniques in agriculture, and involve the following research components: 1) focus groups, 2) a nationally representative online survey utilizing a conjoint format, and 3) experimental auctions. The results will characterize consumer willingness-to-pay for potential methods for limiting bird damage to specialty fruit crops, such as grapes, apples, blueberries and cherries. It will thus give producers information to make more informed decisions to adopt bird control techniques, and has the long-term potential to inform the development of more consumer-responsive ecolabels.

The research assistant will contribute to all phases of this research, including design, implementation, analysis and public outreach, in collaboration with faculty members Dr. Phil Howard and Dr. Chi-Ok Oh. The time commitment will be 20 hours per week throughout the academic year, with the potential for summer employment. Compensation will be at the standard RA rate based on degree and workload, as well as health benefits and a tuition waiver.

CARRS is an interdisciplinary department committed to engaged scholarship within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at MSU. Our teaching, research and public outreach address critical issues at the interfaces of agriculture, natural resources, recreation, and communities. The graduate program is very flexible, with opportunities to design a program of study that includes courses from many other departments.

Qualifications: Research assistants are expected to be highly motivated and interested in agri-food issues as part of their graduate study. They are also expected to be committed to interdisciplinary work. Interested applicants should possess exceptional analytic ability, a strong background in statistics, and well-developed writing skills. PhD students preferred, although master’s students will be considered.

Applicants should send a letter of application, resume/CV, copies of transcripts and GRE scores, and contact information for three references to the address below. In your letter, please address your reasons for interest in the position and your training in academic research.

Dr. Phil Howard
316 Natural Resources Building
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824–1222

Employment will begin August 16, 2012. Continued employment is contingent upon satisfactory performance and progress toward the student’s degree. Review of applications will begin February 1, 2012 and continue until the deadline of March 1. Graduate program admission must be addressed separately and awarding of this RA is contingent upon acceptance into the graduate program. Graduate program admission and RA applications may be submitted simultaneously. See for more information. Contact: Phil Howard, , (517) 355-8431.

Doctoral training opportunity in ecosystem services at Portland State University

Portland State University is recruiting students for its interdisciplinary doctoral training program in Ecosystem Services for Urbanizing Regions (ESUR). ESUR is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through its Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program. The ESUR program is the first IGERT program to focus on the nexus of the science and management of ecosystem services and their interaction with the processes of urbanization.

Trainees will be selected from qualified Ph.D. students who have been accepted into the following PSU doctoral programs:

  • School of the Environment: Environmental Science and Management, Geography, or Geology
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Public Affairs and Policy and Community Health
  • Urban Studies and Planning
  • Sociology

For more information about the ESUR IGERT program at Portland State University, including eligibility criteria and the application process, see the following brochure:

Portland State University ESUR IGERT Brochure

or the following link to the ESUR IGERT program website:

ESUR IGERT Program at Portland State University

Economist position at Ecotrust/E3 Network

Ecotrust and the E3 (Economics for Equity and the Environment) Network are looking for a highly qualified economist to engage in research and analysis to support Ecotrust’s program work and publications. Primary responsibilities include managing research contracts, providing analytical support to Ecotrust programs, providing on-going research and organizational support for the E3 Network, assisting the Director of Economics design an innovative research program around resilience economics; helping senior management articulate the principles of a natural model of economic development.

The ideal candidate will be an economist who can work well independently as well as in teams, has strong research and networking skills, and demonstrates the ability to communicate clearly with diverse audiences. Experience with survey design and implementation, spatial data analysis, and input-output analysis is highly sought. Fields of research interest would include one or more of the following areas: climate and energy, fisheries, ecosystem service markets and valuation, forestry, and economic development. Most importantly, the economist will be innovative and demonstrate a willingness and ability to think outside of the box. She or he must be deeply committed to the mission and values of Ecotrust.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Assist Director of Economics design an innovative research program around resilience economics
  • Manage research contracts from start through completion, including research design, data analysis, writing, and preparing reports or other publications related to project work
  • Provide research support to other Ecotrust programs and the E3 Network
  • Assist with contract development/fundraising
  • All other duties as assigned


  • Ph.D. in economics, natural resource economics, or ecological economics preferred; strong candidates with a Masters in economics and experience may be considered
  • Experience with one or more of the following areas: climate and energy, fisheries, ecosystem service markets and valuation, forestry, and economic development
  • Proficiency with one or more of the following is a plus: Geographic Information Systems (GIS), IMPLAN, probabilistic modeling and statistical analysis
  • Strong organizational and time management skills are required, including the ability to meet tight deadlines and create long-term plans
  • Excellent writing and presentation skills
  • Ability to execute projects independently and on-time
  • Comfortable interacting with a diverse set of organizations (i.e. government, academic, non-profit, tribal)
  • Demonstrated enthusiasm for the mission of Ecotrust
  • Team player, flexible work style and excellent interpersonal skills are plusses

How to Apply
Submit an Ecotrust Employment Application form (available as a PDF or Word DOC) along with a statement of interest, résumé or curriculum vitae, and writing sample (10 pages or less) and references.

E-mail or mail completed applications to:
Dr. Kristen Sheeran
Director of Economics
721 NW 9th Ave., Suite 200
Portland, OR 97209
economist AT ecotrust DOT org

Juliet Schor narrates “Visualizing a Plentitude Economy”

Dr. Juliet Schor, Professor of Sociology at Boston College, and recipient of the USSEE 2011 Herman Daly Award narrates “Visualizing a Plentitude Economy“, a fun animation that provides a vision of what a post-consumer society could look like, with people working fewer hours and pursuing re-skilling, homesteading, and small-scale enterprises that can help reduce the overall size and impact of the consumer economy. Produced by the Center for a New American Dream. Narrated by economist and best-selling author Juliet Schor.

Final keynote address challenges USSEE to escape the ivory tower

Dr. Kristen Sheeran, director of Economics for Equity and the Environment Network (E3), helped to close out the 2011 conference with a keynote address entitled “Beyond the Ivory Tower: the Need for Constructive Engagement by Ecological Economists in Public Discourse”. E3 is a nationwide network of economists developing new arguments for environmental protection with a social justice focus. Her research is focused on the tension between equity and efficiency in public goods provision, the political economy of environmental policy, and climate change mitigation. She is author of Saving Kyoto (New Holland, 2009) with Graciela Chichilnisky, which was named Outstanding Academic Title of 2010 by the American Library Association. In addition to her popular writing about economics and the environment and publications for the E3 Network, she has published scholarly articles in Environmental and Resource Economics, Ecological Economics, Climatic Change, and Journal of Economic Issues. Prior to her role with E3 Network, she was an associate professor of economics at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in economics and political science from Drew University, and received her PhD in economics from American University.

Prof. Larry Walker delivers keynote on future of bioenergy

On the fourth and final day of this year’s USSEE meeting, Dr. Larry Walker provided a keynote address on his “Thoughts on How to Evolve Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industrial Ecologies”. Dr. Walker is professor of Biological and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University, and Director of the Biomass Conversion Laboratory.

A native of Detroit, Larry holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Michigan State University in agricultural engineering. During his 25 years at Cornell he has been involved in a number of biomass to energy and chemical projects, including an assessment of New York State biomass resources available for ethanol production, farm-scale methane production and co-generation, the application of nanotechnology to characterizing and studying important biocatalysts for industrial biotechnology, and optimization of solid-state fermentation for the production of biocontrol products. He serves as the Director of the Northeast Sun Grant Institute of Excellence, he is a member of the National Nanobiotechnology Center (NBTC) Executive committee, and Co-Editor in Chief for the journal Industrial Biotechnology.

USSEE President addresses conference

Current president of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics, Professor Jon Erickson of the University of Vermont, addressed the participants of the 2011 conference at the closing of the third day of the biennial meeting. The full text of his speech is copied below.

Thank you all for the opportunity to address the membership of our society. So, I’m supposed to say something profound about the importance of ecological economics and the bright future of our society. No thanks, let’s get personal instead.

I’m 41 years old and have been a self-proclaimed ecological economist for nearly half of these years. I’ve devoted my professional life to the development of this transdisciplinary lens on the study and management of human communities embedded in our social and biophysical environments.

At 27 years old, with Ph.D. in hand, I landed one of the first jobs advertising for an ecological economist and helped build the world’s first doctoral program in ecological economics at RPI with John Gowdy and Sabine O’Hara (both past presidents of this society). In subsequent years I helped found this organization, served on the board of our international society, authored and co-authored the requisite number of ecological economic papers and books to get tenure and then a full professorship in the field of ecological economics, worked with some of the leading intellects in our field (including John Gowdy, Bob Costanza, Herman Daly, and Josh Farley), and today I manage the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, which I would argue is one of the hubs of research and education in ecological economics and design.

In short, I am the poster child for the academic ecological economist. When ecological economics was formalized in the late 80s and early 90s through the creation of a professional society and journal, people like me were supposed to be incubated, indoctrinated, and infiltrated into society. I didn’t discover ecological economics mid-career and I didn’t transform myself into an ecological economist post-tenure. I defined myself as an ecological economist in graduate school, and for nearly 20 years convinced myself that I knew what this meant.

Well, I’m due for a mid-life crisis! And since I have the podium, I’m going to share some realizations with you all … at least the ones that pertain to my chosen profession and ultimately this academic society.

So, mid-life crisis realization number 1 … ecological economics is a lie. I first discovered ecological economics in a Herman Daly book that I found in the free book pile in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Cornell University. I was led to believe – and staked my career on it – that ecological economics was a study of the economy that was grounded in the principles of ecology. Today I would argue, in practice and in perception, that ecological economics has largely become the application of economics to the conservation agenda of ecologists and environmentalists.  Much of what gets published in our journal, presented at our conferences, and picked up by the press is what we called in graduate school “environmental economics,” a sub-discipline of economics applied to environmental problems. That’s not what I signed up for.

Second realization … as with neoclassical economics, ecological economics is a dogmatic belief system. I thought, for many years, that our charge as ecological economists was to expose the faulty assumptions upon which the house of cards called neoclassical economics was built – particularly the all-too-convenient myths of the rational actor model and the market efficiency hypothesis that it was designed to support. Then we were to build an economics that transcended disciplinary boundaries. An economics built on biophysical truths. An economics that doesn’t always and everywhere assume that more is better. An honest economics built on scientific integrity.

Instead we practice a hypocritical economics. We too often expose the inconsistencies between our behavioral assumptions and hard-won, testable facts from other disciplines, while we kneel at the altar of the market as the one true path to sustainability; particularly in the U.S.  In ecological economics, as with neoclassical economics, the discussion has largely focused on market failure, missing the broader critique of the failure of markets and the role of non-market institutions in moving away from what David Korten calls “suicide economics”.  Institutions matter. We’ve learned from the first generation of payments for ecosystem services schemes, largely in the tropics, that the role of institutions is absolutely critical to successful conservation, and that expensive studies on the non-market benefits of ecosystem service provision mean very little without knowing the distribution of opportunity costs.

Related to this is a third realization, that ecological economics has simply become a prescription for green growth, but growth nonetheless.  When I first cracked open that Herman Daly book on steady-state economics, I was convinced that I discovered a way to reconcile my economics training with my natural science education. I had found a vision of economic development that embraced ethics, affirmed life, and argued for well-defined limits to economic reasoning. Natural science was to define sustainable scale; ethical debate and public process was to negotiate just distribution; and wellregulated markets would be designed to seek efficient allocation.  But in the tradition of the “Armchair Economist”, “Freaknomics”, and many of the popularizations of “thinking like an economist”, ecological economics of late has fallen into that alluring trap of a theory of everything … everything has a price, and thus economics has no bounds.

My next realization is that if I really wanted to devote my career to the study and management of the human household, I should have been a psychologist.  If Milton Friedman were alive today, my guess is that he’d say “We’re all behavioral economists now.”  All the pontification in the world about energy returns on investment, thermodynamics, and the folly of transitioning to a bioenergy future to support business as usual will continue to have a limited impact on policy and planning in absence of a grounding in human nature.  The Madison Avenue advertising firms threw out their econ 101 textbooks many decades ago and aligned themselves with the behavioral sciences. So have the political campaign consultancies, and mass media and news agencies.

The biological underpinnings of our decisions are as much a constraint to sustainability as the energy and ecological limits to growth. Much progress has been made in the “how do we make decisions” realm within the neurosciences.  Much interdisciplinary work remains to be done on “why do we make the decisions we do”.  Ecological economics should have much to contribute to investigating the evolutionary roots of our behavior, the relationship between resource scarcity and systems of governance, and the creation of adaptive strategies to get our species through the next bottleneck. With a few notable exceptions, we have contributed very little to this leading edge of science.

And a final realization as part of my mid-life crisis: the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics is not relevant to social policy. As an association of like-minded people, we often ask the right questions, but are afraid of the unpopular answers. We’ve grown content in talking to each other at our biennial meetings, but unwilling to step outside our own comfort zone to articulate and lobby for change in policy circles. Do we have an alternative to the mainstream, or not? Can we provide the credibility of an academic society, and still offer the much-needed advice necessary to make the transformation our economy so desperately needs; a transformation certainly articulated at meetings such as these but not followed with concrete action.

Part of what we discussed at our members meeting earlier today are steps toward relevance, starting with hiring a secretariat that has the keys to the inner policy circles. But let’s be clear, first we need to get back to telling the truth about the economy. We need to be brave, and articulate and question our own dogma.  We must return to principles of economics based on physical reality.  And we should catch up to the major influence the behavioral sciences are having on a broader revolution in the social sciences.  Then perhaps we can return to challenging the status quo instead of complaining about it in one breath, and serving it in the next.

We live in an incredible time, with a responsibility to tell the truth, educate this generation of policy-makers and economists on the ecological realities of our economic decisions, and use our position of privilege to make a difference. My first year as president was spent getting our own house in order, and not much else. But for this coming year, I hope you’ll join me in working through my own mid-life crisis, and perhaps make the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics relevant in the bargain.

Thanks for listening.

USSEE ’11 keynote and panel on environmental justice

The third day of the 2011 conference of the USSEE started with a morning keynote address and panel discussion on environmental justice. Dr. Devon Payne-Sturges, Assistant Center Director for Human Health at the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s National Center for Environmental Research, kicked off the morning with a presentation entitled “A Long Way to Environmental and Health Equity: Science, Policy and Environmental Justice at U.S. EPA”. She is responsible for conducting strategic research planning and directing NCER’s approximately $20 million human health research program, and serves as primary NCER contact on human health research. Her areas of research include use of exposure biomonitoring for policy analysis, risk assessment, environmental health indicator development, children’s environmental health and environmental health of minority populations. Dr. Payne-Sturges was recently appointed to U.S. EPA’s Risk Assessment Forum and is serving on the Cumulative Risk Assessment Tech Panel and as chapter lead for Agency’s exposure assessment guidelines focusing on exposures of vulnerable and susceptible populations. She is also Co-Chair of Environmental Justice Technical Guidance workgroup on developing technical guidance on incorporating environmental justice concerns in Agency rule making activities, and is EPA’s representative on the interagency Federal Collaboration on Health Disparities Research (FCHDR) executive committee.

Following the keynote presentation, John Gowdy, current president of the International Society for Ecological Economics, moderated a panel discussion focused on the question: Are environmental justice programs in the United States poised to deliver environmental justice? Panelists included Bryce Feighner from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Bernardo Aguilar‐González of Fundación Neotrópica in Costa Rica.