Online Coastal Conservation Economics Course

3 months 3 weeks
Course Type
Online Training

In May, 28 people completed our first online course in Coastal Conservation Economics. This course was offered in partnership with Duke University and sponsored by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation as part of our Conservation Economics Initiative.

“I was really impressed overall with the level of instructors on this course and their very thoughtful presentations. I also appreciated the inclusion of real-life examples throughout the presentations of how the principles are applied to policy or management decisions. Thank you to everyone involved for all your hard work putting this course together!” -2015 online course graduate



Thanks to a generous grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Conservation Strategy Fund and Duke University are launching an Online Coastal Conservation Economics course as part of our Conservation Economics Initiative partnership. This free course is being made possible through a generous grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and will be implemented in collaboration with the Duke Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, and the Duke Environmental Leadership Program (DEL). The free 4-month distance-learning course is designed for conservation professionals, resource managers and decision makers and will provide an overview of economic tools that can help explain and solve coastal environmental problems. Beginning January 2015, the course will include pre-recorded lectures and webinars, video lessons and readings, as well as discussion boards, interactive real-time web conference discussions with faculty, exercises, quizzes and exams. The expected time commitment will be 3 hours per week.


This course is for people at the forefront of conservation challenges, including managers of conservation programs and protected areas, directors of non-governmental organizations, and representatives of government agencies. Professionals from a variety of disciplines such as biology, forestry, law, anthropology, or economics are encouraged to apply. Previous training in economics is beneficial, but not essential. Applicants must be proficient in reading and writing in English.

Application deadline is December 5, 2014. We encourage you to apply right away as space will be limited to ensure an engaging environment, with opportunities for interactive participation. We will also aim to enroll a balance of participants from diverse organizations and different countries. Acceptance decisions will be sent no later than December 19, 2014. Those not enrolled in this class may be considered for future program offerings.


Through a problem-based model of teaching, we will explore how market and institutional failures lead to coastal and marine environmental degradation, and examine the economic and policy tools that can help remedy those failures. The course will also include a module focused on ecosystem services and how valuation of those services can influence on-the-ground decision-making and development of conservation policies.

The course is comprised of two 8-week modules. Each module consists of 4 units: the first unit lasting 1 week, the other 3 units lasting 2 weeks each, plus a final exam week. The course starts the week of January 12, with a break the week of March 30, and ends the week of May 4. Expert faculty from Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and Nicholas School of the Environment, as well as CSF staff and instructors, will teach the course modules.

Class size will be kept small to enable a highly interactive and participatory course with a variety of networking opportunities.


Participants will engage in periodic discussion sessions using WebEx online web-conferencing, interact with faculty and other participants in discussion boards, and complete exercises and readings through the online course management tool.

Participants are expected to dedicate 5-7 hours per 2-week unit:
• Listen to one 60-minute pre-recorded lecture
• 1-2 hours of reading
• 1-2 hours of games or exercises
• Contribution to discussion boards
• Participation in a 1-hour interactive web conference discussion section during the 2nd week of each unit
• 30-minute quiz

Successful completion of each unit, plus passing both module exams, will result in a certificate of completion from DEL and CSF.


Module I: Environmental Degradation, Institutional Failures and Economic Solutions
Unit 1: January 12-16, Introduction to Open Access and Institutional Failure with CSF staff and Linwood Pendleton
Unit 2: January 19-30, Economic Drivers of Environmental Degradation with Jeff Vincent
Unit 3: February 2-13, Solutions to Institutional Failures with Brian Murray
Unit 4: February 16-27, Economic Tools for Conservation with CSF staff
Exam: March 2-6, Module 1 Final Exam Week

Module II: An Ecosystem Services Approach to Conservation: Managing the Economic Value of Natural Capital
Unit 1: March 9-13, Introductory Game
Unit 2: March 16-27, Ecosystem Services with Linwood Pendleton and Brian Murray
Holiday Break: March 30-April 3
Unit 3: April 6-17, Valuing Ecosystem Services with Jeff Vincent
Unit 4: April 20-May1, Incorporating Ecosystem Services into Conservation Policy with Linwood Pendleton
Exam: May 4-8, Module 2 Final Exam Week


Module I: Environmental Degradation, Institutional Failures and Economic Solutions

• Even when people behave with the best intentions, institutional failures such as poorly defined property rights, (e.g., open access fisheries), and other factors can lead to environmental degradation of coastal areas and marine resources. To understand how economics can help us better manage natural coastal systems, we start with a short exploration of how environmental degradation unfolds when economic incentives are aligned with destructive rather than protective actions.
• Through online games and exercises students will experience how human actions can quickly lead to behavior that damages coastal ecosystems and overuses natural resources, such as fisheries.
• These games will motivate students to see that environmental degradation can happen even when coastal resources users do not intend to cause environmental harm. This sets the stage for the rest of the course that demonstrates how economic principles can help to correct certain types of environmental degradation.

In this section, the instructor takes a step-by-step approach to analyze the economic factors that lead to the behaviors that cause coastal environmental degradation. The following basic concepts are explored:
1. institutional and market failures in coastal environments
2. the economics of open access, with a focus on fisheries
3. externalities related to coastal environmental goods and services
4. public goods, such as marine biodiversity
5. congestion, such as with coastal and marine parks
6. the consequences of failing to acknowledge opportunity costs

• Economic steps can be taken to correct the institutional failures and other economic drivers that lead to coastal environmental degradation. This section explores key economic solutions to such failures including taxes, incentives, and establishing property rights (private or communal) for open access coastal and marine resources.
• Basic economic concepts are introduced in order to understand these solutions: supply, demand, concepts of gross, net, average, and marginality are introduced.

• A firm understanding of the benefits and costs of actions sheds light on the economic behavior of coastal resource users, businesses, and organizations. An analysis of benefits and costs also helps to show which actions and policies generate net benefits (or costs) for society and who wins and loses from these actions.
• This section develops a familiarity with the basics of benefit-cost analysis and develops an understanding of keys concepts required to assess the benefits and costs of coastal conservation policy. These include: opportunity costs, time preferences, risk, and discounting of benefits and costs occurring over sometimes long time horizons.

Module II: An Ecosystem Services Approach to Conservation: Managing the Economic Value of Natural Capital


Many of the economic benefits and costs of coastal conservation are derived from the economic value of the goods and services produced by coastal and marine ecosystems. This section introduces students to the basics of coastal ecosystem services by focusing on the following questions: What are ecosystem services? How do ecosystems produce goods and services? How do ecosystem services affect people and their wellbeing? How do you measure the value of ecosystems? What are the links between human activity, ecosystem health, and ecosystem service values?

• Incorporating ecosystem services into coastal conservation policies and decision-making often requires that we understand their economic value, particularly how those values change as a result of conservation actions.
• This section introduces students to the basic methods used to value coastal and marine ecosystem services and changes in these services. Methods explored include measures of economic impacts of coastal ecosystem flows on producers and consumers, imputing values from market and other revealed behavior, hypothetical methods (e.g. stated preferences), and value transfer techniques.
• The goal of this section is not to teach students how to conduct valuation studies themselves, but to teach them to understand what such studies measure, what is required (in terms of skill, time, and money) to undertake valuation studies, and how to use the results in policy applications.

Ultimately, the best economic understanding and valuation estimates are of little value unless they inform policy and correct damaging human behavior. This final section examines case studies that show how economic principles and ecosystem service assessments and valuations can be harnessed to improve coastal and marine conservation outcomes.


Linwood Pendleton is a Senior Scholar in the Ocean and Coastal Policy Program at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. Pendleton’s work focuses on policies that affect human uses and enjoyment of ocean and coastal resources – both living and non-living. He is the director of the Marine Ecosystem Services Partnership, author of many scholarly articles, and coordinates the Marine Secretariat of the international Ecosystem Services Partnership. Pendleton’s current projects include understanding the economic and human impacts of ocean acidification (funded by SESYNC), Mapping Ocean Wealth (with the Nature Conservancy), the economics of coastal blue carbon (Global Environmental Facility), and efforts to better manage the deep sea. Pendleton served as acting chief economist at NOAA from January 2011 through August 2013. He holds a doctoral degree in resource and environmental economics from Yale University; a master's degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School; a master's degree in ecology, evolution, and behavior from Princeton; and a bachelor's degree in biology from the College of William and Mary.

Jeffrey R. Vincent is the Clarence F. Korstian Professor of Forest Economics and Management in the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University. Vincent’s research focuses on the economics of natural resource management and policy in developing countries. Currently, his two main projects are a 5-year project with the Forest Research Institute Malaysia on biodiversity conservation in tropical landscapes affected by commercial logging, and an ongoing project on the joint impacts of brown clouds and greenhouse gases on climate change, water, and agriculture in South Asia. Prior to joining Duke in July 2007, he held positions in the Graduate School of International Relations & Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego (2001-7); the Institute for International Development at Harvard University (1990-2001); and the Department of Forestry at Michigan State University (1987-90). He has degrees from Yale University (Ph.D., 1988), Michigan State University (M.S., 1984), and Harvard University (A.B., 1981).

Brian Murray, Director of the Environmental Economics Program at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, is widely recognized for his work on the economics of climate change policy. This includes the design of cap-and-trade policy elements to address cost containment and inclusion of offsets from traditionally uncapped sectors such as agriculture and forestry. Murray is among the original designers of the allowance price reserve approach for containing prices in carbon markets that was adopted by California and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) cap-and-trade programs. Throughout his 21-year research career, he has produced many peer-reviewed publications on topics ranging from the design of market-based environmental policies and the effectiveness of renewable energy subsidies to the evaluation of programs to protect natural habitats such as forests, coastal and marine ecosystems. He holds both a doctoral and master's degree in resource economics and policy from Duke University and a bachelor's degree in economics and finance from the University of Delaware.

Kim Bonine, Training Director at Conservation Strategy Fund, has led environmental economics courses in Africa, Asia and North and South America on themes such as general conservation economics, values of terrestrial and marine protected areas, cost-benefit analysis, fisheries and forestry economics, and endangered species conservation. For the past 12 years, she has led CSF’s international Economic Tools for Conservation course in partnership with Stanford University, and is currently leading the Conservation Economics Initiative partnership with Duke University. Kim holds a master’s degree in Earth Systems and a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology, both from Stanford University.


This course will be hosted using the online learning management system (LMS), Instructure by Canvas, and will utilize WebEx web conferencing technology.

Screen Size
A minimum of 1024x600. That is the average size of a notebook. If you want to view Canvas on a device with a smaller screen, we recommend using the Canvas mobile app.

Operating Systems
• Windows XP SP3 and newer
• Mac OSX 10.6 and newer
• Linux - chromeOS

Mobile Operating System
• iOS 7 and newer
• Android 2.3 and newer

Computer Speed and Processor
• Use a computer 5 years old or newer when possible
• 1GB of RAM
• 2GHz processor

Internet Speed
Minimum of 512kbps

Mobile Applications
Canvas offers a mobile app for both iOS and Android devices. Depending on your device, not all Canvas features may be available on the app at this time. Please note that mobile applications are only supported in English at this time.

Supported Browsers
Because it was built using web standards, Canvas runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, or any other device with a modern web browser. We highly recommend updating to the newest version of whatever browser you are using as well as the most up-to-date Flash plug-in.

As of October 24, 2014, Canvas supports the following desktop browsers and Flash versions:
• Internet Explorer 10 and 11
• Chrome 37 and 38
• Safari 6 and 7
• Firefox 32 and 33 (Extended Releases are not supported)
• Flash 14 and 15 (for audio/video and uploading files)
• Respondus Lockdown Browser (only the latest system requirements)

Some supported browsers may still produce a banner stating “Your browser does not meet the minimum requirements for Canvas.” If you have upgraded your browser but you are still seeing the warning banner, try logging out of Canvas and deleting your browser cookies.

Required Components
Flash is required in several places in Canvas: media recording/streaming and viewing as well as uploading files to a course or an assignment.

WebEx Video and Teleconferencing
Cisco WebEx will be used for interactive discussion sections. Participants do not need to download or purchase anything in advance; they can join the meeting in progress via computer by clicking a link provided by the meeting host.

WebEx Audio
Participants can use a headset connected to their computer to join the audio portion of the meeting as long as the computer has a supported sound card and a connection to the Internet.

Other Accessories
A headset with microphone is required (webcam optional) to participate in the real time WebEx web conference discussions. We recommend the Logitech H330 USB Headset and the Logitech HD C310 Webcam, if your computer doesn’t already have a built-in camera.

Please complete the Application Form to be eligible for selection. Deadline for applications is December 5th.


This course is made possible through the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s support of CSF’s Conservation Economics Initiative.

Application deadline