New faculty profile: Nick Parker

Nick Parker joined the faculty in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics as an assistant professor this summer.

Briefly describe your career path—up to this point.
My path to UW-Madison – and to academia – has been winding with lots of stops along the way. That is why I’m one of the older assistant professors around!  I fell in love with economics as an undergraduate in the mid-1990s, but I dabbled in life as a professional until 2005, when it was finally clear that my calling was to become a professor. I began a Ph.D. program (in economics) at UC-Santa Barbara in 2005 and was on the academic job market in the fall of 2008. The academic job prospects at that time were slim, because the U.S. economy was tanking, so I felt very fortunate to land a great job as an assistant professor at Montana State University. I was happy at MSU, but the position opening at AAE was too good to not pursue.

What is the main focus of your research program?
I study how legal systems and government policies affect natural resource use and economic development. One branch of my research is focused on questions regarding private land conservation in the U.S. What explains the stunning recent growth of land trusts? How responsive are landowners to tax incentives to conserve their land? Another branch of my research is focused on questions related to Native American economies. What determines whether or not tribes are economically successful? Do tribes in the U.S. and elsewhere suffer from a “natural resource curse”? I am also studying questions related to the reform of marine fisheries. How can policymakers end the wasteful race to harvest fish in ways that can ensure political buy-in? Finally, I am also studying the impact of “conflict minerals” policies on economic activity and conflict in Africa.

What drew you to UW-Madison?
I thought the AAE department would be an ideal fit. The department’s traditional research strengths – in environmental economics, development, and agriculture policy – align almost perfectly with my interests. Because I have common interests with so many of my colleagues (and with our students), there are tons of opportunities for fruitful formal and informal collaboration. I also thought the broader university would be an excellent source of academic and intellectual stimulus. As I settle in, I’m looking forward to branching out and getting to know scholars in places like the economics department, the law school, the business school, the political science department, and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, to name just a few.