David Vail

Affiliation: Economics
Adams-Catlin Professor of Economics Emeritus

David’s current and recent past research focuses on two distinct topics: the feasibility of grass biomass as a source of renewable energy and development of ecotourism quality labels.

The multi-disciplinary grass biomass project (2010-2015) was funded by the National Science Foundation and operated through the University of Maine at Presque Isle. It focuses on the potential for sustainable production of energy crops on northern Maine’s marginal farmland. The final project report, Feasibility of Perennial Grass as a Biomass Feedstock in Aroostook County, Maine, was published in March 2015. A related article in the online journal Land is "High-Precision Land-Cover-Land-Use GIS Mapping and Land Availability and Suitability Analysis for Grass Biomass Production in the Aroostook River Valley, Maine, USA (Wang, Johnston, Vail, Dickinson & Putnam, 2015, 4, 231-254; doi:10.3390/land4010231).

The exploration of tourism quality labels originated as a five year collaboration with the Swedish Ecotourism Association and currently centers on Maine and Northern New England. The project, sponsored by the Maine Woods Consortium, has received support from the US Department of Agriculture, the Maine Office of Tourism, The University of Maine Business School, the Sewall Foundation, and the Betterment Fund. A recent article in the Maine Policy Review is "Consumer Support for a Maine Woods Tourism Quality Label" (Vail & Daniel, 2012: 21:2, 67-80).

Over the past year, David has served as a consultant to the Appalachian Mountain Club, the New England Forestry Foundation, the Downeast Fisheries Partnership, and Maine Woods Discovery (MWD) — a standards-based branding and marketing initiative among Maine's premier outdoor adventure providers. Maine Woods Discovery's certification process and standards build on David's work with Sweden's Nature's Best ecotourism brand and his study of tourism quality labels around the world.

Current advisory roles include the four Maine tribes’ Wabanaki Cultural Tourism Initiative, the Maine Woods Consortium, and the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust. David is a board member of The Swedish Program for American students at the Stockholm School of Economics, The Chewonki Foundation (an experiential environmental education foundation), and CEI - Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (a community development finance institution). David chairs CEI's policy committee and, with CEI's senior vice president for policy co-authored a recent Bangor Daily News op-ed, "Want to boost rural tourism in Maine? Raise Internet speeds" (Vail and Dickstein, 24 March 2015). 

David was a founding board member of the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP), a non-partisan public policy think tank. From 2004 to 2010 he directed MECEP’s Spreading Prosperity to All of Maine project (publications are listed at www.mecep.org). In recent years, David has served on several Maine and New England advisory bodies: the Maine House Speaker’s Tax Reform Advisory Commission (2002); the Governor’s Steering Committee on Natural Resource-based Industries (2004-06); the Gulf of Maine Council’s Sustainable Tourism Committee (2003-06); the Maine Department of Conservation’s Green Infrastructure Task Force (2006); the Governor’s Council on Maine’s Quality of Place (advisor, 2007-08); and the New England Governors’ Blue Ribbon Commission on Land Conservation (Maine scientific advisor, 2009-10).

David’s favorite pastimes include organic gardening, sea kayaking and masters swimming. At the 2015 New England Masters Swim Championships, David swam and won gold medals in nine events (over three days). He holds numerous New England Masters records and posted ten US and three World top ten rankings in 2013.

Curriculum Vitae



Professor Vail in a kayak

David Vail headshot


  • PhD, Economics, Yale University, 1971
  • BA, International Affairs, Princeton University, 1965