SU Professors Awarded National Science Foundation Grant

Written by Karen L. Bystrom
September 20, 2017

The National Science Foundation awarded a grant to Dr. Tanya Hayes and Dr. Felipe Murtinho for a new project, "RUI: What happens when payments stop? Collective resource management under the rise and fall of payment for environmental services.”

Dr. Tanya Hayes with a woman in EcuadorThe award began July 1 of this year and continues through June 30, 2020. With an initial grant of 263,903, continued funding in 2018 and 2019 is expected to bring the total grant award to $496,164.

“Payment for Environmental Services (PES), is a voluntary transaction in which a resource user receives payment for providing well-defined conservation activities,” explains Dr. Hayes. “It has emerged as a prominent policy to support the management and provision of critical environmental services (e.g. forest for watershed protection).”

In recent years, governmental and non-governmental aid and conservation agencies have increasingly supported PES as a tool for sustainable resource management. Dr. Murtinho says, “Despite the widespread use of PES within the US and internationally, we have limited understanding of its ability to support sustained conservation activities. While some studies have shown payments to be effective at attaining conservation gains over the short-term, few studies have examined whether those conservation behaviors are sustained over longer time periods, particularly if payments stop.”

Dr. Feliep Murtinho with one man and two women in EcuadorThis research examines the extent to which the PES model prompts conservation behavior and communal resource management arrangements that endure, even when payments stop.  In 2009, the Ecuadorian government implemented an internationally recognized payment for conservation program that paid communities and households to conserve their native ecosystems. In 2016, the program unexpectedly lost funding and payments stopped.

In 2012-2015 Drs. Hayes and Murtinho gathered socio-economic, institutional, ecological, and behavioral data from a set of Ecuadorian communities in 10 provinces to test how the Ecuadorian payment program changed household land-use behaviors and influenced the development of communal resource management arrangements (NSF #SES-1156271). The study found that, under the PES program, households reduced resource use and created collective management arrangements. The proposed research will use this baseline data and gather socio-economic, institutional, ecological, and behavioral data from the same communities to assess how loss of payments has impacted household land-use decisions and communal resource management.  Household and leader questionnaires, focus groups, biophysical data, and aerial photos will be analyzed using quantitative, qualitative and spatial analysis techniques. The research findings will provide evidenced-based policy lessons for governments and donors wishing to use PES and similar payment initiatives as a mechanism for sustainable resource management.

Dr. Tanya Hayes conducts a focus group in Ecuador holds a joint PhD in Political Science and Public and Environmental Affairs from Indiana University, Bloomington (2007), where she specialized in policy analysis and natural resource management.  At Seattle University, Dr. Hayes is the Director of the Environmental Studies program and she also teaches in the Public Affairs program within the Institute of Public Service.

Dr. Hayes’s expertise is in international and national conservation policies and their impacts on community resource management in low-income countries.  Her research focuses on how conservation policies crafted in international or national policy arenas interact with communal governance structures, and in turn, shape individual behaviors and the resultant social and ecological outcomes.  Most of Dr. Hayes’s work examines agricultural expansion and conservation in lowland forests as well as highland ecosystems in countries throughout Latin America: Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.  Her previous work examined the social and ecological impacts of different protected area policies.  Her more recent work examines the social and behavioral impacts of Payment for Environmental Services (PES), and related incentive-based conservation policies. Currently, Dr. Hayes in conjunction with an international team of researchers are examining the institutional, behavioral and equity implications when PES programs are implemented in communal lands in Ecuador. Dr. Hayes has authored over fifteen publications. Her most recent work on the impact of PES on communal land-use can be found published in World Development, Ecological Economics and Environmental Management.

Dr. Felipe Murtinho is an assistant professor in the International Studies program and the Institute of Public Service where he teaches world geography, research design and methods, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). He completed his Ph.D. in Geography from University California Santa Barbara. He holds a M.A. in Environmental Economics and a B.A. in Economics, both from Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia.

Dr. Murtinho’s research seeks to better understand how rural communities in the Global South impact their environment and how they respond to changes in the natural resource systems that they depend on for their livelihoods. In the context of global climate change, a critical question in local resource management is how communities change their resource use behaviors, both with regards to mitigation (or activities aimed at reducing the problem of CO2 emissions) and adaptation (activities aimed to cope with uncertain environmental variability such as natural hazards). Dr. Murtinho’s research aims to contribute to these questions by examining how rural communities in Latin America adapt to environmental variability, and work to mitigate environmental degradation. Specifically, his work focuses on water, paramos (high-altitude grassland) and forest management. Dr. Murtinho has over ten highly regarded peer-reviewed publications including Global Environmental Change, Human Ecology and International Journal of the Commons.


Photos: Dr. Tanya Hayes and Dr. Murtinho in Ecuador, Summer 2017.