LizSmithMarine Conservation and Policy students recently had the pleasure of meeting Liz Smith, an environmental economist who works with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), an international non-profit organization dedicated to environmental conservation. Smith described the unique role she plays at TNC by helping people assign monetary value to different types of coastal resources.

Smith refers to economists as “the unlikely scientists” since their role in science was not appreciated until recently. She points out, however, that “the tide is changing” as economic costs become a growing concern in environmental projects. Non-governmental organizations, like TNC, are at the forefront of this movement to involve economics and other social sciences in environmental planning.

Smith is confident that her work with TNC “impacts policy in a very legitimate way,” as it helps decision-makers make well-informed choices. Her career choice was not always obvious, however; a volunteer experience completely changed her intended path and took her to where she is now. Smith encouraged students to pursue volunteer opportunities as they are a great learning experience and may lead to a meaningful career—as they did for her.

Meeting with Smith was a great opportunity for students to see, from a different perspective, what a career in marine conservation might entail and to gain insight into finding the perfect career fit.