Student Spotlight: Bijeta Bijen Saha

Bijeta Bijen Saha

PhD candidate, Food and Resource Economics, UF

What is the goal of your PhD research?

The goal of my PhD research is to measure the short- and long-term economic effects of exogenous shocks to the environment and resulting ecological issues, particularly events that have affected the coastal communities of western Florida. My research focuses on recurring issues such as harmful algal blooms as well as more isolated incidents such as the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill. I employ a quasi-experimental research framework to quantify the causal effects of the hazard events on the overall coastal economy as well as within specific sectors, such as tourism. After completing my PhD, I would like to pursue a research career as an applied economist in a work environment that involves the opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary team.

How does your work support decision-making or management of coastal resources?

When applying to graduate programs, I thought that becoming a successful researcher meant learning to solve a discipline-specific problem or issue. However, as I have progressed through my PhD journey, I have realized that providing information and insights to decision-making groups outside of academia is just as important as contributing to the academic literature on a topic.

My research establishes causal relationships between environmental hazards and economic changes in the affected areas. The results of my research will contribute to the large body of evidence on the impacts of catastrophic events on local economies, which can be used to inform decisions related to prevention and mitigation of the recurring hazard events and/or preparation and planning to design communities that are more resilient to isolated incidents.

What is the most interesting thing that you have discovered through your research?

The estimated impacts of a hazard event on the affected region can often appear smaller than expected. There are often multiple, potentially contradicting factors at play. The negative impacts of a hazard event can be offset to some extent in the short run if there are positive impacts occurring within the same period. For example, risk perception related to the event or its environmental or human health effects might vary from individual to individual and some people might still choose to visit the affected areas. After the DWH oil spill, many short-term job opportunities were created in the field of emergency response, clean-up, and restoration of the local natural resources. Both examples can lead to positive outcomes for the local economy, which can offset negative impacts associated with an event.