Merlin Hanauer - "Poverty Traps"

merlin_hanauer.jpgMerlin Hanauer, assistant professor of economics, has earned the prestigious Cozzarelli Prize for an article that demonstrated how protected regions -- areas that have been closed off to protect the environment -- have affected both poverty and deforestation in Costa Rica and Thailand.

The Cozzarelli Prize is sponsored by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) to acknowledge papers published during the year in PNAS that demonstrate the highest scientific excellence and originality. Hanauer and his co-authors' article was one of six chosen for the award out of 3,500 articles that were published last year. It was awarded in the category of Applied Biological, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.


In their research paper, entitled, "Conditions Associated With Protected Area Success in Conservation and Poverty Reduction," Hanauer and co-authors Paul J. Ferraro and Katharine R.E. Sims addressed concerns about "poverty traps."


Governments that close off an area that has provided resources and land to a historically poor community may inadvertently develop restrictions that could act to keep them in poverty. The team found surprising results.


"Some of the poorest communities at baseline have actually had the most positive response to the establishment of protected areas," Hanauer explained in a podcast following the ceremony. He and his colleagues have also created sustainability maps that show graphically where to place future protected areas to ensure both less deforestation and less poverty.


Hanauer believes they won the Cozzarelli prize because the paper was accessible and policy relevant, meaning people from a broad array of scientific backgrounds could read and pickup salient points. One of the primary goals of this research was to introduce a framework for studying protected areas that can be implemented worldwide.


Growing up in a small logging community on the Salmon River, Hanauer studied environmental economics as a way to help actively change the world.


"Economics gave me the opportunity to speak in ways people would respond to. I saw this as a way to achieve goals and get people to listen." His research has taken him across the world to places like Bolivia and Italy to help highlight the impacts of conservation policy.


In 2001, Hanauer graduated from Humboldt State University with a B.A. in economics and a minor in computer science.


During his career, he received the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies Excellence in Teaching Economics award and the Theodore C Boyden Excellence in Teaching Economics award while teaching as a graduate student at Georgia State University.


The year 2011 was a great one for Hanauer. He earned a Ph.D in economics from Georgia State University with a concentration in environmental economics and joined the faculty of the department of economics at SSU.


Interestingly, Hanauer discovered his love of teaching through kayaking. During a break between undergraduate and graduate school he became a kayak instructor, and saw how his influence could shape another's skill. The decision was made. Knowing that economics classes are usually met with snores or dread, he does his best to bring as much energy to the classroom as possible.


"Dr. Hanauer was the best economics teacher I have ever had. He was extremely clear throughout the course and made hard concepts easy to understand by using examples that were interesting and relatable," said Brittany Navarre, a junior.


To listen to the podcast interview with Hanauer, visit: www.pnas.org/site/misc/podcasts.shtml#Hanauer.


The annual award was established in 2005 and named the Cozzarelli Prize in 2007 to honor late PNAS Editor-in-Chief Nicholas R. Cozzarelli. Prizes are awarded in the six broadly defined classes under which the National Academy of Sciences is organized.

- Piper Watkins

Subscribe to SSU NewsCenter