Laboratory Research

Economic development and the conservation of natural resources

In two related projects with researchers from UCSB and the University of Kiel, the WCEL evaluates the impact of economic development on resource extraction using data from global fisheries. More specifically we investigate 1) how the impact of credit market development affect overfishing and 2) how structural change of economies or the decline of resource users leads to stricter resource regulations. 

WCEL team: Frederik Noack

Rural urban migration and the environment

In several related projects with researchers from UCSB and Yale the WCEL investigates the role of rural to urban migration on the environment and vice versa. In the first project we estimate the impact of rural urban migration on the extensive and the intensive margin of reforestation using household data combined with satellite data from Uganda. The second project quantifies the impact of rural to urban migration on technology adoption and its environmental consequences using panel surveys and environmental data from India. The last project reverses the question. It asks whether rural to urban migration reduces the welfare consequences of environmental disasters in Indonesia. The projects are funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


WCEL team: Julia Brewer, Bianca Cecato, Raahil Madhok, Frederik Noack, Martina Siskova.

Diversity, productivity and the conservation of nature

In two related projects with colleagues from the idiv, UCSB, VU Amsterdam and the University of Goettingen we  quantify the relationships between agricultural diversity, agricultural productivity and environmental outcomes in Germany and Uganda. The projects are based on survey data, data from remote sensing and data from citizen science. 


WCEL team: Frederik Noack

The distributional consequences of resource regulation

In this project, the WCEL in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada

quantifies the impact of resource regulation on income distributions by tracking individual fishers in canada.


WCEL team: Elyse Adamic, Frederik Noack


Economic Development and Biodiversity Loss

In two related projects, we study the extent to which infrastructure development in India’s forests impacts local ecosystems. In the first project, we quantify how forest encroachments for infrastructure impact species diversity. In the second project, we study the welfare loss from species declines. The projects use a combination of citizen science, high-resolution satellite data, and construction applications.


WCEL team: Raahil Madhok

Environmental Dimensions of the Fight Against COVID-19


In two projects, we use the imposition of global COVID-19 lockdowns as a “natural experiment” to study the impact of reduced human activity on the environment.

In the first project, with colleagues from the Univ. Lausanne and Univ. Bologna, we investigate the change in air quality from global COVID-19 restrictions using daily data for the whole world. In the second project, we use the strict lockdown in India to study whether species diversity in urban centres increased as humans were forced to remain indoors. 


WCEL Team: Sumeet Gulati, Frederik Noack, Raahil Madhok


Human Casualties as the Dominant Cost of Wildlife Conflict in India.


Reducing the costs from human-wildlife conflict is a priority for conservation in India. In joint work with the Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS), India, WCEL is estimating the cost of experiencing conflict with 15 major species, using a survey of 5,196 households living near 11 wildlife reserves in India. We find that costs from human casualties overwhelm crop and livestock damages for all species associated with human fatalities. It has been argued that

the costs from conflict with nuisance species, such as the pig and the nilgai in India, are almost as costly as conflict with charismatic mega-fauna: elephants, leopards, and tigers. We find this to be untrue. Our results indicate that conflict with an elephant is on average 600 times more costly than conflict with a pig—the next herbivore with no human

fatalities. Similarly, conflict with a tiger is approximately 100 times

more costly than with a wolf—the next carnivore with no human fatalities.


WCEL team: Nguyet Anh Le, Sumeet Gulati, Frederik Noack.


Human Casualties and Wildlife Conservation in India.

Starting May 2020, WCEL has started a partnership with the Widlife Coexistence Lab at UBC ( and several partners in India (the Indian Statistical Institute, the Wildlife Institute of India, World Wildlife Fund-India, and the Centre for Widllife Studies) to estimate and analyze human casualties from wildlife conflict in India. The project will last 3-4 years and will fund 1-2 Ph.D. students, one masters student, several undergraduate research assistants, and much research in the determinants of human casualties from wildlife conflict in India. 


WCEL team: Sumeet Gulati, and Frederik Noack


Evaluating the impacts of cooking interventions in rural Senegal: The case of domestic biogas digesters

In this project, we undertake an impact evaluation of Senegal’s Programme National de Biogaz Domestique (PNB-SN), or the national domestic biogas program. PNB-SN aims to support Senegal’s energy transition by promoting household use of biogas to meet energy needs. Specifically, the program seeks to reduce the use of solid fuels, like firewood, for cooking and improve agriculture production through the use of bioslurry fertilizer, a bi-product of anaerobic digestion. Using data from household surveys conducted in 2019, we evaluate the impact of PNB-SN on a wide array of household and individual-level outcomes.


WCEL team: Erin Litzow