Baishali Bakshi - International Research

Baishali Bakshi

I am currently a graduate student in NRSM in the Wildlife Ecology track of University of Minnesota and an Environmental Economist at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. My research project is on evaluating impacts to ecosystem services from climate change-induced shift in forest composition in the Boreal forests of northern Minnesota. Ecosystem services are benefits received from nature such as recreation, water quality, and climate regulation. Evaluating these benefits are complicated by their dependence on natural resources, which may be affected by a variety of stressors including climate change, and further by their public good features, which means typically a market price is not available for valuation. My research aims to evaluate impacts to ecosystem services using a blend of econometric and spatial modeling tools and region specific data from a variety of sources. My interest in the links between economics and conservation owes partly to growing up in India where preserving biodiversity and natural areas competed with deep social inequities, low environmental consciousness and improper enforcement. I joined the PhD program in economics at the University of California, Irvine to explore these links and apply economic tools to solve problems characterizing them such as trade in environmental products and human-wildlife conflict. My decision to pursue a second graduate study was motivated by a desire to understand natural resources from the ecological point of view and apply the tools of ecology and economics to study multidisciplinary conservation problems. Having an excellent graduate advisor who understood my goals and being part of the NRSM graduate program which provided a blend of academic rigor and flexibility has been beneficial to me and allows me to work full time while completing my dissertation.

I came to the US from India in 1999 to join the PhD program in Economics at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). My program was structured initially in core economics courses and later opened up to specializations leading to the choice of a broad thesis topic and advisor and hence was different compared to my current program. As an international student and as one who had only spent a couple of years living away from home before, this was a major change in culture, climate and daily life. However several factors helped me adapt and enjoy the time spent including the scenic beauty of Irvine, the diversity of my University, the excellent academic experience I received and the kindness and fellowship of my American friendship partners among many other new friends. The American friendship partner program assigned international students with an American family willing to spend time with them and acquaint them with the new culture including inviting them to their homes. I learned a lot from these generous individuals and after a decade of graduation and leaving UCI, I am still in touch with some of them. Overall both graduate programs have enriched my academic, personal and professional experience. The difference in structure, subject area and surroundings between them curiously fit the requirements I had in these stages of life. As I near completion of my dissertation at NRSM at the University of Minnesota, I look forward to applying the knowledge, skills and experience gained in my current position with the State of Minnesota.