Our Stories

Exploring the Economics of Fishing

Economics major Colin Gardiner '09 grew up fishing with his dad in Alaska. Last summer he combined his studies with his hobby by examining fishing through the eyes of an economist.

Hired as a research assistant for a fisheries economist and professor at the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), part of the University of Alaska Anchorage, Gardiner applied his classroom lessons to real life. He gathered and analyzed data, helped develop a fisheries economics course and began coauthoring a paper, all in a building looking out over the beautiful Chugach Mountains.

Gardiner found the job rewarding in multiple ways, one being the practical nature of the work. In analyzing how regulations are affecting fisheries and how fishermen can cut back on fuel costs, Gardiner contributed directly to work being done in energy economics for the state of Alaska. "The job was unique in that I wasn't just there to watch," Gardiner says.

Gardiner thrived on the rigor of graduate-level work at ISER, and he also gained perspective on how to get the most out his remaining undergraduate classes when he returned to Willamette. "My work at ISER informed me on what I needed to learn and focus on," he says. "I learned that it would be important for me to take more math and econometrics courses to gain the tools I need to analyze data."

He continued his position at ISER from afar during his senior year by researching for the paper he is co-authoring about the price elasticity of the commercial salmon harvest in Alaska. As for his plans after graduation, he is still considering multiple options -- which could include returning to Alaska for more work on this project, heading to Washington D.C. to work on macroeconomics at the federal level, or possibly pursuing economics in graduate school.

Wherever he ends up, fishing and economics will always remain his passions.

This story, written by Lis Wagner, originally appeared in The Collegian, Willamette's student newspaper.