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Gretchen Daily to Speak on Valuing Ecosystems

May 31, 2011Patrick NunnallyProgram & Announcements, UncategorizedComments Off on Gretchen Daily to Speak on Valuing Ecosystems

If you’ve been paying more than casual attention to this season’s flooding on the Mississippi River, then you know that there has been discussion of how much it costs the US economy to shut down the river’s transportation system for even a day. (Some estimates are, as much as $300 million.)  Other commentators have talked about the economic losses from flooded farm fields, a delayed crop, and other ongoing impacts of the flooding.

But what is the floodplain worth, as a floodplain?  What is it worth to us to have the “safety valve” of the floodplain, so that future floods may be an inconvenience but not a catastrophe?

Gretchen Daily, an economist at Stanford and with the Natural Capital Project, has been working on questions such as these.  Daily will deliver a free public lecture on her work at 5:00 on Monday June 13, in the St. Paul Student Center of the University of Minnesota.

Her talk is jointly sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the College of Biological Sciences.

A full press release, with additional details, follows:

Media Contact:
Patrick Sweeney
Freshwater Society

“Harmonizing People and Nature: A New Business Model”

Gretchen C. Daily, Stanford University ecologist and co-founder of the Natural Capital Project, to speak on valuing and pricing environmental benefits

Fifth lecture in the Moos Family speaker series sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota

What is a wetland worth? Is it only the price a buyer might pay for the land at the moment? Or does the wetland’s value include the future flood damage or water pollution it may prevent? How do you put a value on any individual natural site’s contribution to keeping plant and animal species from going extinct decades into the future?

Those are the kinds of questions Stanford University ecologist Gretchen Daily has devoted her career to asking and answering.

Daily, a global leader in efforts to protect the environment by attaching monetary value to all the services that natural systems provide to humans, will deliver a free public lecture in St. Paul on Monday, June 13.

Her talk – titled “Harmonizing People and Nature: A New Business Model — will be the fifth lecture in the Moos Family Speaker Series co-sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences. She will present the lecture at 5 p.m. in the theater of the St. Paul Student Center on the university’s St. Paul Campus.  For information and to register to attend the lecture, go to

The St. Paul Student Center is located at 2017 Buford St., near Cleveland Avenue, on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

Daily, a professor in Stanford’s Department of Biology, was the author with journalist Katherine Ellison of a 2002 book, The New Economy of Nature: The Quest to Make Conservation Profitable.

She also is co-founder of the Natural Capital Project, an interdisciplinary project that combines ecology and economics in an effort to put prices on the benefits that ecosystems provide.  The three founding partners in the Natural Capital Project were Stanford, the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund.  Last year, the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment joined the partnership.

The Natural Capital Project has developed a new software system – Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs, or InVEST – under the leadership of University of Minnesota environmental economist Steve Polasky to model future costs and benefits of landscape changes.  Within the next couple of years, InVEST will be available on Google’s new Earth Engine platform to assist decision makers in visualizing and quantifying the implications of alternative scenarios or policies.

“Around the world, leaders are increasingly recognizing ecosystems as natural capital assets that supply life-support services of tremendous value – and foremost among these are water-related services,” Daily said. “The challenge is to turn this recognition into incentives and institutions that will guide wise investments.”

The Moos Family Speaker Series honors the late Malcolm Moos, a former University of Minnesota president.

Recent speakers in the series have been: Robert Glennon, a University of Arizona law professor and author of two books on water sustainability; Hedrick Smith, producer of “Poisoned Waters,” a PBS Frontline documentary on water pollution; Louis J. Guillette Jr., a reproductive biologist at the Medical University of South Carolina who has researched animal  birth defects linked to water pollution; and Craig A. Cox, a senior vice president of the Environmental Working Group who works on agricultural pollution and erosion.

About the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences

The College of Biological Sciences provides education and conducts research in all areas of biology, from molecules to ecosystems, supporting applications in medicine, renewable energy, ecosystem management, agriculture and biotechnology. For more information about research and degree programs, go to

About the Freshwater Society

The Freshwater Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and inspiring people to value, conserve and protect water resources. Located in Excelsior, Minn., adjacent to Lake Minnetonka, it has a long history of association with the University of Minnesota. For more information, go to

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