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Research Project Description

Assessing the Economic Benefits of Water Nationally Using Integrated Measures
Research Participation Program
Office of Research and Development
National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Corvallis, OR


Project Description:

A postdoctoral research project training opportunity is currently available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (NHEERL). The appointment will be served with the Western Ecology Division (WED) in Corvallis, Oregon.

WED, which is one of four NHEERL ecological effects divisions, focuses on providing EPA with national scientific leadership for terrestrial and regional-scale ecology and developing the scientific basis for assessing the condition of aquatic resources and their response to natural and anthropogenic stresses.  WED's research focus comprises two aspects: 1) developing an understanding of the structure and function of ecological systems, and 2) conducting analyses of ecological phenomena at the ecosystem, landscape, and regional scales.

One of the biggest challenges in examining links between water quality and human well-being on a national scale has been the absence of well-defined water quality data that can be integrated with economic analysis.  As part of the Safe and Sustainable Water Resources National Program, research is being conducted to develop methods and indicators that can be used to characterize the ecological health and quality of watersheds across the U.S.

This interdisciplinary project, by pairing ecological and hydrological scientists with social and economic scientists, will provide a unique opportunity to develop the first phases of a more comprehensive framework for assessing the importance of water and watersheds to the economy and well-being of U.S. residents.  The absence of integrated frameworks that combine ecological and economic data to assess society’s dependence on watershed-related resources hinders the EPA’s capacity to protect the nation’s water resources as mandated under the federal Clean Water Act.  This research aims to develop a quantitative foundation for integrating economic and ecological data that is required to improve our capacity to make strategic decisions regarding important current and future policy needs. Under the guidance of a mentor, the participant may be involved in the following activities:

  • Developing a conceptual framework for identifying causal relationships between metrics of watershed integrity and important economic values;
  • Assembling nationally available socio-economic data required to quantify important linkages illustrated in conceptual framework;
  • Developing and implementing empirical strategies required to quantify causal relationships between watershed condition and socio-economic outcomes;
  • Conducting literature searches, scientific synthesis, data analysis, and manuscript preparation;
  • Collaborating with researchers developing and mapping measures of watershed integrity and stream condition;
  • Integrating and scaling a variety of socio-economic datasets using GIS;
  • Developing research summaries and other communications for technical and nontechnical audiences.

Through this project, the participant will learn how to use advanced economic valuation theory and methods to examine how economic benefits generated from water quality and watershed health can be valued at different spatial scales.  S/he will further develop expertise in quantifying behavioral and socioeconomic consequences of water and environmental policy scenarios using large national datasets.  S/he will also have access to a team of experts collaborating in and across disciplines on problems of crucial importance to the EPA’s mission. S/he will be encouraged to communicate his/her research results through peer-reviewed publications, presentations at meetings of professional societies and seminars.


Applicants must have received a doctoral degree in environmental economics, nonmarket valuation, or a closely related field within five years of the desired starting date, or completion of all requirements for the degree should be expected prior to the starting date.  Experience in economic modeling and econometric or statistical empirical analysis at broad spatial scales is desired.

The program is open to all qualified individuals without regard to race, sex, religion, color, age, physical or mental disability, national origin, or status as a Vietnam era or disabled veteran. U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident status is preferred (but a candidate also may hold an appropriate visa status; an H1B visa is not appropriate). Guidelines for non-U.S. citizens may be found at 

The appointment is full time for one year and may be renewed upon recommendation of EPA and contingent on the availability of funds. The participant will receive a monthly stipend. Funding may be made available to reimburse the participant's travel expenses to present the results of his/her research at scientific conferences. No funding will be made available to cover travel costs for pre-appointment visits, relocation costs, tuition and fees, or a participant's health insurance. The participant must show proof of health and medical insurance. The participant does not become an EPA employee.

Technical Questions:

The mentors for this project will be Michael Papenfus ( and Scott G. Leibowitz (  


How to Apply:

An application can be found at Please reference Project # EPA-ORD/NHEERL-WED-2014-07 when calling or writing for information.