In this Thesis Corner interview, I sat down with Alia Kabir to talk about her project that explored the linkages between declining salmon populations due to climate change and local economies.
Could you explain a little bit about what your thesis was and what you focused on?
Yeah, so it was basically about…salmon. I was trying to see if there was a correlation between the amount of value of the salmon harvests in particular areas across the West Coast and economic indicators in the counties where the ports that salmon were coming in were located. So, it was basically about just seeing if there was a correlation between the value of the recreational and commercial harvests, focusing on chinook and coho salmon on indicators like unemployment, poverty, and income.
Was your project more econometrics based, as opposed to theory based?
Yeah, mine was definitely more econometrics. Because I knew that salmon species were declining, I wanted to look at whether we could see the effect of that and it hadn’t really been done because there was a lot on the salmon species decline and on the economic value of salmon, but not a lot on the actual effect of this decline on the economy, so it was more econometric because I wanted to see if the data worked with those theories.
Why did you pick this topic?
I’m just really interested in effects of changes in the environment, mostly due to climate change, on local economics. And, I actually started trying to look at oysters and the effect of ocean acidification on the oyster industry, but it was really hard to find data so I ended up shifting to looking at salmon because it was a lot easier to find panel data with salmon.
What were the results of your project?
I basically found that, I did have significance in my regression, so I did find that there were correlations between economic indicators and those values of the salmon harvests, but they were kind of not what I was expecting. The recreational and commercial harvests were correlated with the indicators in different ways. And so, I didn’t really get a result that was consistent from each harvest and each type of salmon.
How might you extend this project if you were to pursue it further?
I definitely would want to look at more variables. There were a few things that I wasn’t able to capture mostly because I didn’t have time to do all of the data digging that I wanted to. So, a couple things would be: I’d like to incorporate the amount of fishing that actually plays into each local economy, because the way it is now, really small counties are kind of equated with bigger cities like San Francisco, which is obviously not very accurate so I’d like to add a variable for the strength of the fishing industry in that area. And then also, it would be nice to find a more consistent or better measure for the recreational harvest because I had to use the commercial price to value it. So what I used to value it was like the price per pound times the landed amount of fish, and it would be nice to have a better value for recreation since it’s obviously not sold by the commercial price.
Lastly, for the trademark Thesis Corner question: What advice would you give to rising seniors for their thesis projects?
I would give the same advice that everyone else gives, which is to make sure you have the right data if you’re doing an econometrics project because data was by far the biggest challenge. And, to make sure that you do have resources for data that is not going to be insanely tedious for you to gather, because you might be able to get one value from a PDF but [for] like a lot of my values for the oyster stuff, they said look at old library PDF-type scan things, and it would have been insane for me to do that from the 80s. So make sure that it’s feasible in that short of a time and start thinking early about your topic because it was pretty hard to come up with a topic and do the initial work in the beginning of the semester.
Thank you to Alia for sitting down with me for this interview. Congratulations on completing your senior thesis project!
This transcript/interview has been modified slightly for clarity.