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Environmental Studies

Ecological and Economic Recovery of the Kennebec and Androscoggin rivers, estuary, and nearshore marine environment
Danny Lowinger, '12 Environmental Studies and Economics

Posted July 23, 2012

Ecological and Economic Recovery of the Kennebec and Androscoggin rivers, estuary, and nearshore marine environment

Danny Lowinger '12 was awarded a fellowship, summer 2011  to work with faculty and other students from Bowdoin, Bates and the University of Southern Maine on "Maine Rivers, Estuaries and Coastal Fisheries," a project funded by the National Science Foundation’s Office of Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (ESPCoR) through a grant to the University of Maine's Sustainability Solutions Initiative.

Danny's project abstract:The Kennebec and Androscoggin Rivers in Maine provide a variety of ecosystem services, such as commercial and recreational fishing, boating and hydropower. Historically, alewives traveled upstream on the rivers to spawn, while supporting a commercial inshore cod fishery. However, human activities such as damming and the presence of paper and textile mills along these rivers led to a drastic reduction in alewife populations, which essentially destroyed the inshore fishery. Our research project seeks to understand what restoration efforts can work, and whether increasing alewife populations could rebuild a commercial cod fishery. This project will aid the Maine government, environmental organizations, academic institutions and other stakeholders that are conducting ecological and economic recovery projects of these Maine rivers.

My individual research centered on understanding the economics of the river system. I began by investigating the economics literature that employed methods for valuing river restoration. This aspect of my research involved studying hedonic pricing theory, the travel cost method, and benefits transfer. After understanding the basics of these valuation methods, I collected a variety of sources from that implemented them, which could form the basis of a future benefits transfer study. I learned how economists monetize non-market goods along rivers like recreational fishing, swimming, and boating, and I found that in some cases residents are willing to pay for restoration efforts that have not been implemented. I also examined the literature of case studies documenting the management regimes of fisheries, water and forests with multiple user groups. Many of these studies use Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom’s framework for governance of common pool resources. These case studies will aid Professor Herrera’s work on small-scale fisheries in the Dominican Republic.

Outside of examining the scholarship, I engaged in ecological fieldwork mapping vegetation in Merrymeeting Bay, which the biologists working on the project are using to understand changes in the river system over time. Toward the end of my fellowship, I aided in the running focus groups about rivers at Bates and Bowdoin consisting of Maine residents. The focus groups are intended to serve as a starting point for a contingent valuation study that Professor Herrera will design with a fellow economist at Bates. The focus groups were recorded on video and I was responsible for transcribing them. We asked respondents questions concerning knowledge of restoration efforts, perceptions of individual Maine rivers, and how they used or could hypothetically use them if improvements were made.

Faculty Mentor: Guillermo “Ta” Herrera
Funded by the Sustainability Solutions Partners Fellowship

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