RIT is confronting the global challenges of sustainability through interdisciplinary programs that integrate engineering and science with economics and public policy.
"These models will provide more guidance to ranchers on how to maximize profit and yet maintain resilience for the long term, while also assisting environmentalists in preserving the often fragile ecosystems in the American West"
Dr. Amit Batabyal, the Arthur J. Gosnell Professor of Economics in the College of Liberal Arts, is using dynamic and stochastic modeling techniques to create theoretical models that can assist in preserving and protecting American rangelands, advancing our understanding of how to manage invasive species, and promoting sustainable economic development in the developing world.
"Economic modeling has traditionally been used to maximize either the utility of individuals or the profits emanating from the optimal management of exhaustible and renewable resources," notes Batabyal. "However, these models do not work well when addressing complex problems in ever-changing environments, features that routinely characterize ecological-economic systems such as rangelands."
In response, Batabyal has adapted a series of stochastic modeling techniques from the operations research literature and has used them to analyze ecological-economic systems for which both data and outcomes are uncertain. In the case of rangelands, these modeling techniques are designed to assist managers to better assess how shocks to the system, such as floods or droughts, will impact grassland, cattle production, and the ultimate survivability of the habitat for future seasons.
"These models will provide more guidance to ranchers on how to maximize profit and yet maintain resilience for the long term, while also assisting environmentalists in preserving the often fragile ecosystems in the American West," Batabyal adds.
Batabyal's research in rangeland management culminated in the book Stochastic Modeling in Range Management: Selected Essays, published by Nova Science. It also earned him the "Outstanding Achievement in Research Award" from the Society for Range Management.
Batabyal is now developing stochastic models to better manage the introduction of invasive species in new habitats, through research funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He is also researching ways in which developing countries might better manage their natural resources. Some of this work appeared in the book Dynamic and Stochastic Approaches to the Environment and Economic Development, published in 2008.
Through the graduate course The Economics of Sustainability, which he co-developed as a core course within RIT's doctoral program in sustainability, Batabyal is working to assist future scientists and engineers in understanding the interactions between ecology and economics.
"These research and education programs will give future policy makers and managers a better understanding of the ways in which today's actions will impact future yields, productivity, and the overall sustainability of resource systems," Batabyal says.