Conclusions: Fare thee well, DC

August 4, 2012

Well, my time in DC is now wrapping up. I don’t feel l like delving into these matters in too great detail right now, so here is a few brief take-a ways:

  • DC: it’s where the magic happens
  • Its buildings are grandiose and its metro system is shit
  • Today’s job market in the policy field is truly the stuff of nightmares
  • But of those who do this work that I’ve had the pleasure meeting, they are truly a great bunch
  • The fireflies here are like you aint never seen!

Overall it’s been a fun summer and a good experience. God bless America.


The more you know

July 17, 2012

A cool video the team I’m working under put together:

Polyps in Peril

Chapter 2: In which I am still in DC and learning things

July 5, 2012

Me, on my daily commute.

I suppose it’s about time for an update. Much of my time has been spent in the office, researching away, but I’ve also had the opportunity to hear some great talks and be exposed to all of the neat things WRI gets up to. A quick overview of a couple of the talks I’ve attended:

Linwood Pendleton’s talk (of Duke University and Chief Economist at NOAA) was primarily on the dynamic and deep-rooted relationship America has had with marine and coastal resources throughout history. Quite fascinating. Included in the talk was a slide or two concerning M

onterey’s former abalone industry as well as Ed Ricketts’ role in shaping the current status of California’s red-legged frog.  Something of a guru, Dr. Pendleton is.

Ray Hilborn is one of the world’s leading fisheries experts. Hilborn bucks the conventional all-fisheries-are-doomed mentality by saying relatively the opposite: that a good 83% of fish stocks are well on their way to recovery, given current fishing pressure. Basically, that while stocks have been overfished, overfishing is largely not allowed to happen anymore due to effective management. This was mostly presented in terms of US fish stocks. Globally, the situation is slightly worse-off, but nowhere near the crisis that some would have you believe. His argument is that, yes, many fish stocks are in need of additional attention, but, overall, it’s time to stop with the “unduly alarmist and apocalyptic” rhetoric and give credit to where credit is due, in this case the fishery scientists and managers responsible for these recoveries (more on his argument here ; and his article in Science). Also interesting was his blatant contempt for SeafoodWatch listings, stating that it does not change fishing practices in the slightest and only amounts to feel-goodery for people like myself. Cool stuff.

Work-wise: I continue to toil away on my coastal valuation research. What data are needed to establish a socioeconomic baseline for valuing the impacts of a fishing sanctuary? What factors contribute to a quality valuation framework for ecosystem services? If these sort of questions are of interest to you, well, hit me up.

Apart from my research, just working in an organization such as WRI has been quite instructive. Research, it turns out, is only one component of the work that goes on around here. Other activities may include: contacting funders, securing translations, overseeing graphic design of posters and videos, calling printers, arranging travel plans, contacting experts, giving interviews and presentations, etc.

It is a stimulating environment; I’m learning a lot and enjoying my time while doing so.

Further updates as events unfold.



June 14, 2012

Hello and welcome!

Over the upcoming summer this blog will serve as an outlet for my experience as a CBE Summer Fellow at the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Washington DC. I will be working with their Coastal Capital initiative, primarily assisting in the development of a standardized framework for conducting economic valuations of coastal resources, based off of prior WRI reports of coral reefs in the Caribbean. Although this internship will be the blog’s main focus I will use my experience here and the many opportunities offered by living in DC to explore other relevant coastal policy issues as well (maybe).


Coastal ecosystems are under a variety of threats. From overfishing to polluted runoff; from coastal development to the gradual acidification of our oceans: coral reefs, seagrasses, and mangroves are in a very precarious position. This is bad news as these ecosystems provide us, as humans, with a variety of benefits.  It is tricky, however, to determine what exactly the values of those benefits are. Which matters because without having some quantitative measure of their worth, those that determine the fate of these ecosystems – “decision makers” – are unable to take the full value of coastal ecosystems into their accounting, resulting in coral reefs and mangroves getting shortchanged in in favor of alternative – more destructive and more clearly economically rewarding – uses of the ecosystem areas. Thus continuing the ongoing decline of the world’s coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves.

Of course, it is easy to talk of the intrinsic beauty of coral reefs, their rich biodiversity, and the desire for your grandchildren to experience these wonders. This rhetoric, however, is largely not useful to decision makers. What is needed is a common language. Dollars work well.  This, then, is the objective behind WRI’s Coastal Capital initiative and what I will be assisting with this summer: to provide decision makers with a useful tool to aid in the sustainable management of coastal ecosystems.

This blog will catalog some of my insights into and from this process. It may be more for my own clarity than anything else; however, you are welcome to read should you take an interest in this sort of thing.  A disclaimer: As I will be working full time for WRI, I do not expect to have regular updates to this blog, rather, throughout the summer I will periodically provide a few brief reports on my work’s progress and related experiences within DC. Enjoy.