My research focuses on the design and evaluation of environmental policies and programs, but I have broad interests in causal inference in science and policy. In other words, I am willing to work with students who ask interesting questions about causal relationships that relate to important scientific questions (e.g., how does biological diversity affect ecosystem productivity?) or important policy questions (e.g., how best can programs induce private firms to act for the public good?). See this article for a sense of my approach to empirical research. I also have interests in behavioral economics and psychology, particularly policy applications of the insights gained from behavioral research.

Most of my students spend at least part of their dissertation on empirical evaluations of policies and programs. Some students may focus their empirical research on specific mechanisms through which policies and programs are hypothesized to affect outcomes (rather than the policies and programs themselves). I am more interested in studies that focus on the effects of causes than studies that focus on the causes of effects. Understanding the causes of effects is, of course, our ultimate goal, but our theory and data are generally not up to the task of estimating them in a single study. I firmly believe that answering well-posed questions about the effects of causes is a much more fruitful path for inquiry than trying to determine "what causes Y” in a single study. I am particularly interested in causal studies that shed light on broader debates about human behavior, ecosystem functioning, or the connections between the two.

For my students’ dissertations, I prefer, but do not require, that my students write three essays that are suitable for publication in reputable, peer-reviewed journals. I take mentoring students seriously and thus usually require that students work on at least one essay with me. This scheme also usually ensures that they’ll have at least one publication prior to going out on the market. I do not have a preference for students who seek academic jobs, but I do prefer students who want to incorporate policy-relevant research in some way into their future careers.

Ph.D. students seeking a dissertation advisor can work with me in one of three ways. They can enter the Ph.D. program in Economics, the Ph.D. program in Environmental Health and Engineering through the Bloomberg School of Public Health, or the Ph.D. program in Environmental Health and Engineering through the Whiting School of Engineering. I also serve as a member of Ph.D. committees in a variety of disciplines, including Economics, Public Policy, Biology, Environmental Studies and Engineering. I firmly believe that your identity comes from your expertise and interests, not from the department that granted your Ph.D.

I encourage students to come talk to me if they think they might want to consider me as a dissertation advisor or a member of their committee. If you’re thinking of asking me to be your dissertation advisor, I also recommend you talk to some of my most recently graduated students to get a sense of what it might be like to work with me: Maria Bernedo at University of Maryland; Merlin Hanauer at Sonoma State University; and Juan Jose Miranda at the World Bank.