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Aaron Lien’s Final Dissertation Research

Aaron defended his dissertation research last March 1st, 2017.  He passed this oral presentation with flying colors! That is - he passed this requirement of his doctorate degree in Arid Lands Resource Sciences (ALRS), without revisions. 

Aaron entered the ALRS Ph.D. program in the Fall of 2013, while working as a Senior Researcher at the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy.  A position that he still holds to the present time.

He is one of the few students who has maintained a GPA of 4.0 throughout his studies.  He has written several peer reviewed publications and professional publications and has participated in federal grants and contracts.  You may read about his many successful endeavors as a student and as a researcher in the attached cv.

Below is the abstract of his dissertation research:


Payments for ecosystem services (PES), or conservation incentives, are an increasingly popular approach to encouraging natural resources conservation on private lands. The goal of PES approaches is to motivate conservation by private landowners that would not otherwise take place by providing an economic incentive. To achieve this goal, incentive programs must be available to landowners who can provide the desired services; supportive policy structures must be in place; landowners must be willing to participate as sellers of ecosystem services; and the program itself must have an institutional structure that effectively regulates the production, sale, and maintenance of targeted ecosystem services. This dissertation uses a combination of case study and comparative research methods to develop new knowledge and tools for assessing each of these necessary conditions for success. The potential development of an incentive program to conserve habitat for endangered jaguars in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico is used as a case study to understand the attitudes of ranchers toward participation in PES programs and related policies and regulations. Results show that ranchers have strong intrinsic conservation motivations unrelated to economic incentives, coupled with significant concerns about the impacts of government regulations that could accompany participation in a PES program. Comparative research of the institutional structures of existing PES programs is carried out using the Institutional Analysis and Development Framework to develop a classification system for PES program institutional arrangements and the utility of the classification system for analyzing institutional diversity is demonstrated. Together, the case study and comparative research provide a means of linking empirical assessment of PES governance models with the preferences of targeted participants, increasing the likelihood of successful conservation outcomes.

Last updated 10 Mar 2017