In many strategic settings, both in biological and social-ecological systems, strategies employed by individuals influence the environment, and the state of the environment alters the incentives faced in strategic interactions. These features are indicative of an eco-evolutionary game. With Erol Akcay and Josh Plotkin, I developed a general modeling framework for eco-evolutionary games that encompasses a broad class of problems in biology, psychology and human-environment systems. We seek to use this framework to make predictions about the circumstances in which the existence of environmental feedbacks fundamentally change predictions about system-level properties of the game-theoretic interactions.
I am working with Avinash Dixit and Simon Levin to explore the relationships between prosociality and public goods provision. We are interested in how patterns of prosociality within and across groups shape the societal benefits produced through voluntary public-goods provision. We relate these findings to the nature of the public good in question, linking the ecology of the public good with the economic incentives of prosocial individuals. Further, we are also investigating different scaling relationships between group size and prosociality to better understand group structure that optimally supports public-goods provision. We see this as an important step toward better understanding the contexts (ecological, economic and social) where prosociality is most effective at averting tragedies of the commons.
In collaboration with James Watson, I study the potential for novel risk management tools to be used as mechanisms for improved self-management in resource systems. Natural resource systems are susceptible to day-to-day and season-to-season variability, but in common-pool resource systems, such as fisheries, insurance against low harvests is rare. We are studying the potential for revenue-sharing cooperatives to provide insurance against harvest volatility in these systems while also creating incentives for sustainable harvesting. The goal is to better understand the conditions under which collective insurance schemes can be a tool for improved management.
Colleagues from the Beijer Young Scholars group and I are developing a research agenda focused on the interactions among inequality in a market sector, policies governing resource use and resulting resource management or environmental quality. Many natural resource systems are exhibiting increased concentration among the firms in the market. How this consolidation interacts with management and policy-making remains an open question with implications for many of the sustainability challenges of our time. We are developing theoretical modeling frameworks to study these dynamical feedbacks with the goal of better understand how inequality among firms in a sector impacts stewardship.