Environmental Studies at UVM

Eric Palola '82

Executive Director, Guanacaste Dry Forest Conservation Fund

When Eric Palola found the Environmental Program at UVM he knew he was home. Drawn to economics but skeptical of cost-benefit formulas, Eric felt that there was a disconnect between economics and natural systems. Ecological economics was not part of the discussion in those years, Eric recalls. Still, he remembers sitting in his first ENVS 001 class listening to Carl Reidel connect his work as a forester with ecosystems and economics.

“Carl was always pulling from different disciplines. He could talk seamlessly about ecology, ethics, economics, and public policy. It served to connect my wide-ranging and haphazard interests. The  Environmental Program took seriously the mix of social sciences with natural sciences. Carl used to say the world needs fewer specialists and more generalists because the generalists connect the dots, see the relationships, and figure out how to solve problems.”

Eric went on to earn a graduate degree from the Kennedy School for Public Policy, Harvard University. He has worked in environmental policy at the Vermont Natural Resources Council, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a private energy firm and for almost 20 years as a resource economist at the National Wildlife Federation. Today from his home in Vermont, he directs a nonprofit group that conserves biodiversity in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, a rich ecological hotspot. Eric married Shelley McSweeney (ENVS ’85) and they have two children, Tristan and Aniken.