Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

CIRES Welcomes Environmental Economist Matt Burgess

Multidisciplinary researcher plans to bring new dimension of global sustainability to CIRES research

As the Fall 2018 semester kicks off at CU Boulder, CIRES welcomes Matt Burgess, an  environmental economist, to join its Council of Fellows. Matt Burgess melds ecology, economics, and policy in his work—forming a new connection between CIRES and CU Boulder’s department of Economics.

At CIRES, Burgess will continue his research to explore the relationship between human activity and ecological change. In recent years, for example, he has explored environmental policies such as NOAA's bycatch rule for marine mammals. Bycatch—the accidental killing of sea life during fishing operations—is a complicated problem that demands an understanding of not only the environment, but of people's economic motivations.

“Economics is just the ecology of people,” said Burgess. “I’ve blended the two disciplines throughout my education and research career.”

Burgess' work includes that of fishery policy, like NOAA's bycatch rule. Picture shows 1960's tuna fishing, prior to the creation of policies to protect marine mammals. Photo: NOAA Photo Library

Burgess, originally from Montreal, Canada, received his Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior from the University of Minnesota in 2014. He completed his postdoctoral research at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Today, his research focuses on natural resource management, strategies for ecological conservation, and the economics and ecology of global sustainability.

Burgess is currently working on a new study investigating when environmental regulators can get away with regulating proxies for pollutants instead of the pollutants themselves. For instance, exploring the question: when is a gas tax an acceptable substitute for a carbon tax?

“I am very excited to have Matt join our CIRES faculty,” said CIRES Director Waleed Abdalati. “His expertise in environmental economics will add an important new dimension to our research portfolio, complementing our strengths in the natural sciences and science policy. His expertise in the economics of environmental decisions provides a critical interface between the research we do at CIRES, and the implications for people and businesses.” 

Burgess’ home department at CU Boulder will be the Environmental Studies Program, where he is an Assistant Professor, and he has a courtesy appointment in Economics. He will also collaborate with the CIRES Center for Science and Technology Policy Research.

This fall, Burgess is teaching “Natural Resource Economics,” an undergraduate course, and will add graduate-level courses in the near future. He will also supervise a postdoctoral researcher in mathematical sustainability science.

Burgess has published his research in Science, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Marine Policy, and more. He is also an active writer and communicator, with articles and opinion pieces featured in several U.S and Canadian news outlets, and he maintains an active presence on social media (@matthewgburgess).

Burgess with his wife, Megan, and son, Theo. Photo: Liz Fourie Photography

When he’s not doing research, you can find Burgess spending time with his wife and one-year old son, Theo, playing guitar and singing, or playing soccer, hockey and golf. He has also been known to try his hand at snowblading, a winter sport in which riders zip down snowy slopes using shortened skis and no poles.

For more information on Burgess’ lab, click here.

CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and CU Boulder.

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