University of Vermont

Taylor Ricketts Lab

Keri Defends Her Thesis!

On August 17, Keri successfully defended her doctoral dissertation entitled “Conservation of Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity in Vermont, USA.” The abstract is included below. Keri will be continuing to work with the Ricketts lab as she transitions to her new role as Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Sewanee, the University of the South. We’ll miss you, Keri!

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Supporting a growing human population while avoiding biodiversity loss is a central challenge towards a sustainable future. Ecosystem services are benefits that people derive from nature, the pathways by which human wellbeing depends on ecosystems. People have drastically altered the earth’s land surface in the pursuit of those ecosystem services that have been ascribed market value, while eroding away biodiversity and non-market ecosystem services. The science required to inform a more balanced vision for managing landscapes is rapidly developing, but critical questions remain unanswered regarding how to quantify ecosystem services and ascribe them value, and how to coordinate efforts to safeguard multiple ecosystem services and biodiversity together. This dissertation addresses several of those challenges using Vermont as a model landscape. Specifically, I begin by estimating the economic value of flood mitigation ecosystem services through a case study of the Otter Creek watershed. Second, I assess the role of demand from human beneficiaries in shifting the spatial distribution of ecosystem services statewide, and address the biodiversity and human wellbeing implications of that shift. Third, I analyze the tradeoffs and synergies inherent in pursuing multiple ecosystem services and biodiversity through conservation, and show that overall ecosystem service conservation is more likely to boost biodiversity outcomes than to undermine them. Finally, I implement statewide scenarios of land cover change and flood risk in order to assess our capacity to quantify ecosystem service outcomes and identify spatial priorities into the future despite land cover change dynamics that are complex and unpredictable.