See below for information on some recent papers that I played a role in writing. Where I am the corresponding author, I have hosted an open-access preprint. If I did the computational work for a project, you’ll also find replication code here.

Pierce Donovan (2024). Visualizing causal hypotheses in environmental econometrics. Review of Environmental Economics and Policy.

Environmental economists have gravitated toward writing empirical papers with an emphasis on causal inference. Despite this development, there has not been much progress in the way of adopting an explicit framework for communicating causal hypotheses—prior beliefs about the structure of a data generating process. The shortfall reduces the transparency and accessibility of the assumptions underlying effect identification and makes the testing of causal hypotheses impossible. This article explains why an explicit framework is worthwhile and demonstrates how Directed Acyclic Graphs can augment and standardize the communication of causal knowledge.

Keywords: causal models, identification, research design, specification testing, communication, directed acyclic graphs

[Forthcoming] [Preprint] [Related Presentation]

Pierce Donovan and Michael Springborn (2022). Balancing conservation and commerce: A shadow value viability approach for governing bycatch. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.

This paper develops a theory of the implicit existence value of an endangered species population. A social planner calculates the minimal (virtual) level of loss from extinction that would trigger sufficient regulation to avoid extinction with a desired confidence. A cost-effective policy then arises from acting as if the resulting shadow value is real. This value is used to produce market-based instruments that aid in the integrated management of conservation and commercial harvest.

Keywords: dynamic programming methods, shadow valuation, avoiding extinction, bycatch

[Preprint] [Code] [JEEM Article]

Pierce Donovan, Lucas Bair, Charles Yackulic, and Michael Springborn (2019). Safety in numbers: Cost-effective endangered species management for viable populations. Land Economics.

This paper introduces a new dynamic programming algorithm for solving joint-chance constrained objectives—like the ongoing [cost-effective] avoidance of species extinction—that does not require explicit knowledge of the benefits of conservation. Our policy promotes a large endangered species population as a buffer against uncertain invasive species recruitment and predation, and an adaptive management strategy enables significant cost-savings.

Keywords: endangered species, population viability, chance-constrained dynamic programming

[Preprint] [Code] [Land Economics Article] [ARE Update Article]

Kailin Kroetz, Daniel Lew, James Sanchirico, and Pierce Donovan (2019). Recreational leasing of Alaska commercial Halibut quota: The early years of the GAF program in Alaska. Coastal Management.

The Pacific Halibut Catch Sharing Plan formalized the halibut allocation process between the Alaska commercial and recreational charter sectors, enabling charter operators to relax client harvest restrictions. In the first two years of lease market activity, charter participation was fairly low, although the value-per-pound may be higher in the charter sector, as commercial-to-charter transfer prices approached the commercial ex-vessel price.

Keywords: inter-sector quota allocation, commercial and recreational fishery management

[Coastal Management Article]