Thesis: An experimental study of trust and competition in collaborative private land conservation programs
My research explores how trust and competition jointly influence collaboration in private land conservation programs. I am using experimental economics to investigate how collaborative behaviour is affected by: 1) being paired with an unknown, distrusted or trusted partner; 2) participating in a non-competitive “flatrate” program versus a competitive “reverse auction” program; and 3) the combination of 1) and 2). Ultimately, my work will cast some light on how to get people working together in collaborative conservation programs, and how collaborative programs can best be designed to achieve the goals of the implementing agency.
Why my research is important
The value of collaboration hasn’t yet been fully harnessed in the private land conservation domain. Getting landholders to collaborate across property boundaries and across landscapes could have many positive consequences. Firstly, joint projects might be able to achieve super-additive benefits for biodiversity, because of their increased size and connectedness. Secondly, joint projects might create economies-of-scale for landholders, thus reducing their project implementation costs. Both of the above two factors could allow agencies to achieve more benefit at less cost. Collaborative programs could also be a useful way to enhance social capital in rural communities, by encouraging landholders to share knowledge and experiences whilst pursuing mutual goals. My work is important, because understanding collaborative conservation is potentially valuable for both people and the environment.