ECONOMICS 288 – Economics of Tropical Coastal Seascapes

Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics

Spring 2013

ECONOMICS 288- Economics of Tropical Coastal Seascapes

“Tourism has become the world’s biggest industry and the majority of the tourist destinations and tourism infrastructure are coastal. Coastal tourism employs millions of people worldwide in recreation, fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and other aquatic activities. Coastal visitors frequent tourism complexes and resorts, marine recreational facilities, entertainment facilities, shore-side recreational facilities, parks and protected areas. They also visit non-beach shorelines, reefs, estuaries, back bays, salt ponds, lagoons, coastal plains, and offshore waters.

 In spite of the positive aspects of coastal tourism – the revenues and recreation it provides – unbridled tourism development often creates serious problems, especially in developing countries. According to The World Tourism Organization, developing countries need help “to create an appropriate regulatory framework, efficient planning, sound management and clear sustainable development guidelines.” When these measures are in place, tourism has proven to provide a strong economic base on which community development and environmental protection is fostered”. – (Rubinoff and Tobey, 2000)

Professor Jim Casey

Holekamp 214, Ext. 8102, Email: Caseyj


Permission of the instructor

Quick Overview:

Economics 288 takes an interdisciplinary approach to environmental economics by allowing students to (1) learn economic theory in the classroom, (2) apply it in the field, and (3) learn about coastal ecology in the classroom and field in Belize, Central America.  The primary economic question to be addressed in this course is how to value coastal resources – this year our species of interest is the Whale Shark.  This course entails the application of microeconomic analysis to coastal environmental problems and explores the underlying economic basis for the formation of coastal and marine policies.  An interdisciplinary perspective is coupled with formal economic analysis throughout the entire course.  Economic theories of firm and individual behavior will be used to develop formal models of non-market valuation and the valuation of ecological services provided by coastal and marine ecosystems.  These formal models provide insights into questions related to: a) the sustainability of marine resources given commercial and recreational demands, b) the optimal amount of protected marine areas, c) the ideal amount of coastal development, and d) the link between land use-water quality-and marine populations.  Emphasis will be placed on the techniques economists have developed to value non-market environmental resources.  The specific valuation technique to be explored and implemented is the Contingent Valuation Method (CVM).  Class meetings will be devoted to reading and discussing articles from journals with a marine or environmental focus including; Ecological Economics, Water Resource Economics, Fisheries Research, and the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.  Upon completion of this course students will be able to critically evaluate journal articles and conduct rudimentary economic analyses of coastal and marine policy.  Student evaluation will be based on participation (written and oral), several written assignments, a mid-term exam, and a final project presentation.

Course Objectives:


  1. To introduce you to a number of concepts, issues, and theories in contemporary marine resource economics.
  2. To provide you with thinking skills that will enable you to analyze, evaluate, and make decisions concerning complex contemporary marine issues.
  3. To help you to improve your communications skills in order to enhance your effectiveness in expressing your view on the issues.
  4. To encourage you to become more tolerant of ambiguity and diversity as it pertains to human experience and to increase your ability to deal with multiple points of view.


  1.  Confidently read the literature on marine/coastal valuation and management.
  2.  Determine for yourself, the validity of environmental valuation for policy purposes.
  3.  More deeply understand the importance and value of marine environmental resources.

Course Requirements:

Group Paper (30%) – You will be required to write three linked papers. ( the details – See Appendix A)

Presentation (20%) – The last day of the semester will be reserved for group poster presentations at the Spring Term Festival.  This presentation will present the results of your paper.

Take Home Exam (20%) – You will be asked to formally model one particular question from your topic of choice.  For example, maybe you are looking at marine pollution.  You will want to present and use the appropriate economic model for analyzing the problem of marine pollution. See appendix B for an example.

Class participation (10%) – Notice this does not say class attendance.  You will be required to engage actively in the discussions in this class.  Do NOT assume that everyone gets an A for class participation or that class participation can “only improve your grade” for it will be possible to receive an F in class participation.

I will post all readings for the next day, on the blog, by 2pm.  Whenever we have a reading assignment, you will need to write a blog entry for each article by 8am (1 hour before class).

Field Journal (10%) – You will be required to write about your daily adventures in the field and keep track of your emotional state when we are in Belize.


Students are expected to read the assigned materials for section discussions.  Discussion is contingent upon preparation by all of the stakeholders in the educational process–faculty and students.  It is the responsibility of all of us to be prepared to participate and learn together.  Hence, if you have not read the assigned material you should not attend the discussion section.  Each day you may be called upon to lead a discussion (with your research group), so be prepared.
Tuesday Discussion

Wednesday Discussion

Course format:

This course will be broken into three parts.
The first week will be spent in Lexington learning theory.    Students will be reading primary literature and meeting each day with me to discuss these articles and explore the underlying economic theory and marine resource valuation.  At the end of this part of the course, students will write a formal exam where they will be expected to apply economic reasoning to a marine resource problem.  The expectation is for students to be able to use graphical tools in order to analyze ceteris paribus violations that relate to changes in the marine environment.
The second phase of the course is experiential.  We will spend 9 days in Belize.  Aside from attending classroom lectures and field trips with the students – I will also meet with students in the after-dinner hours each day, in a relaxed setting, in order to facilitate a conversation related to their experiences during the day.  I will be spending approximately 8 hours per day in direct contact with students.

During the second part of the course students will have the opportunity to swim and snorkel the surrounding coral reef environment.  We will only conduct these activities under the supervision of qualified personal..   Additionally, students who are certified may have the opportunity to dive with certified dive instructors.

The last third of the course will emphasize written and oral communication skills.


An important aspect of economics is writing to communicate ideas.  Albeit, an aspect that is often given little emphasis in undergraduate economics’ coursework.  This class will emphasize writing.  Seventy five percent of the grade for this course will be determined by three writing assignments.  Therefore, we will spend a significant amount of time talking about the writing process.

Ideas are the life-blood of any discipline and the ability to communicate these ideas in written fashion is what allows for the dissemination of these ideas.  This is not to say that all ideas should be written down, but at least this way we can determine which are worthy of publication and which are relegated to the trash heap.

When I write a paper I like to think about five distinct sections of the paper.

  1. a. Introduction
    b. Background
  2. Literature Review / Theory
  3. Methods / Data
  4. Model and Results
  5. a. Discussion
    b. Conclusion

The introduction needs to tell the reader about the problem or issue to be addressed.  It MUST be interesting, if it is not, people will not read the rest of your work.  It should explain the general field in which you are working and what makes your study/thinking important. This is A of the introduction.  Part B is the background.  This is where you get to fill in some of the detail and really get the reader hooked on your topic.

Literature Review / Theory 
Here you describe what others have done in order to focus your work and keep from “reinventing the wheel.”  We learn from the body of work that precedes us.  Please organize it from general to specific, so that you take increasingly detailed looks at an ever narrowing range of ideas, action and/or products.  Make sure that you do not rely solely on the internet (it is ephemeral at best).  At least one of your sources should be the seminal or groundbreaking works in the field. Please cite your book and journal references as follows (Harbor, 1999).  Or if Casey (1999) said it.  For books, please give the page number (Harbor, 1992, p. 42).  For internet sites, give the organization and year, and put the full address in the citation.  Use MLA or APA style for the references cited (See “A writer’s reference, your Official W&L style guide).

Methods / Data 
This is the “road map” that you’re going to write.  Tell us what, how, etc. you’re going to do to get “results”  It might be how you’re going to compare different case studies, how you’re going to sample flowers, how you’re going to interview stakeholders, etc.  It should be based on the methods designed by others as given in your literature review.

Model and Results 
This is where you estimate your model and present the results.  First, you will want to present a Y = a + bX + e.  This should follow directly from your theory and data.  Then, its  “Just the facts, ma’am.”  You tell the reader just what should be obvious from the estimation of your model.  Offer no interpretation, per se.  Explain the ins and outs, but refrain from valuing the results.

Here’s where you can finally use the words “I think.”  Run with the results in terms of what they mean to you, how you would act based on this information, how what you learned differs from or compares with what others have learned from their work.  In the discussion, you have the opportunity to advocate for policy and/or programming changes.

References Cited

Paper 1: 4 to 5 pages in length consisting of the intro/background. (section I)

Paper 2: 5-7 pages in length consisting of the theory and methods. (sections II and III)

Paper 3: 7-10 pages in length consisting of the model and results and conclusion. (sections IV and V)


Assume the “market” for coral habitat preservation is in equilibrium at price (Po), and hectares preserved at (Ho).  In order to receive full credit for your answer you must use graphs in combination with your explanation.

Why is this not socially optimal?

What policy would you recommend for establishing a socially optimal level of habitat preservation?

Identify the change in consumer surplus from your policy being implemented.

What does this change measure?

Appendix C – Travel Information


The weather throughout the region will be generally hot and sunny.We will be visiting in the end of the dry season.  We can expect daytime temperatures in the high 80s, maybe low 90s, and night time low temperatures in the low 70s.  There is the possibility of an El Norte this time of year, which is a cold weather front from the north.  These are more common in December and January but can happen this time of year.  Typically it consists of one day of rain, and another day of cool weather. During an El Norte, day time high temperatures can be in the low 60s and a nice rain jacket and thick sweatshirt is generally sufficient.


Bring appropriate clothing for hot days, warm evenings, and for rain.You will want to have lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants for protecting yourself from the sun and for when hiking through light brush.If insects like your flavor, pants should be tucked into your socks.You will also want comfortable clothing for walking around, a swimming suit, hat, teva type sandals, lightweight hiking boots or sturdy shoes.

Comfortable footwear is essential.Since we are doing such a wide-range of activities, comfort and versatility is the key.

Health Precautions


Currently no vaccinations are required for travel in Mexico. Please consult your physician.As with most travel to the tropics, it is recommended that tetanus vaccinations be current and to have protection from hepatitis A. For comprehensive information please contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on the Internet at or by phone at 404-332-4559. Again, consult your physician.

We will be providing purified water on the vans and at the hotel rooms.I also recommend bringing along your preferred brands of non-prescription medicine for headache and body pains, allergies, head colds, indigestion, etc.

Insect Protection

Every participant should bring an adequate supply of insect repellent.  An application of lotion each morning in addition to spraying your clothing is recommended.I rarely have problems with insects.

Sun Protection

SUNSCREEN, SUNSCREEN, SUNSCREEN, I can’t stress it enough.

Be sure to bring a pair of sunglasses, sun hat and sunscreen.

Suggested Packing List

  • lightweight hiking pants
  • lightweight long-sleeved shirts
  • sunscreen lotion
  • shorts
  • hat
  • insect lotion
  • lightweight hiking boots or sturdy/stable shoes.
  • teva type sandals
  • personal toiletries
  • day-pack
  • light sweater or jacket
  • rain gear
  • umbrella (optional but very handy)
  • swimsuits
  • flashlight and/or headlamp
  • pocketknife
  • sunglasses
  • binoculars
  • camera
  • batteries
  • name tag on your luggage
  • Use common sense, be comfortable.