James Meldrum, PhD

Research Economist, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) (as of June 2016)
(Formerly: Research Associate, University of Colorado Boulder)
Institute of Behavioral Science: Environment & Society Program
Western Water Assessment


As an environmental economist, I research human dimensions of natural hazards (wildfire, floods) and of natural resources (water, energy, forests). I focus on the role of human decisions in the dynamics of natural systems and on the role of risks, incentives, opportunity costs, and other considerations on decision-making. My versatile, interdisciplinary approach is grounded in economics and informed by resilience and sustainability.

My main research topics are:

I have a PhD from the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Colorado Boulder and a B.S. in physics and philosophy-neuroscience-psychology from Washington University in St. Louis.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss my work or how it can help you with yours.


June 2016
As of June 2016, I have joined the US Geological Survey (USGS) as a Research Economist in the Social and Economic Analysis Branch at the Fort Collins Science Center! I will no longer maintain this website; please visit my USGS profile instead.

December 2015
My article Comparing different attitude statements in latent class models of stated preferences for managing an invasive forest pathogen is published in this month's issue of Ecological Economics! (View accepted version here.)

October 2015
I enjoyed presenting on "Homeowner Risk Mitigation and Community Wildfire Adaptedness" with Patty Champ at the 2015 NFPA Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference, in Myrtle Beach!

October 2015
I was invited to present to the interagency International Water-Energy Nexus (IWEN) Deepdive on Quantitative Comparison of Water for Energy. View my slides here.

September 2015
I was excited to attend the Colorado Wildland Fire Conference in Snowmass, CO, this month. My presentation and those of my collaborators seemed well received, and it's great to hear the perspectives of the stakeholders and practitioners relevant to our research.

September 2015
My latest publication with Hannah Brenkert-Smith and Patty Champ, Climate change beliefs and hazard mitigation behaviors: homeowners and wildfire risk, is now available online in Environmental Hazards!

July 2015
The CU Press office picked up our "risk gap" paper and interviewed me for their press release: 'Residents in wildfire-prone areas underestimate their risk,' leading to coverage across Colorado.

June 2015
I got a lot out of taking part in the 21st International Symposium on Society and Resource Management (ISSRM 2015 Conference) in Charleston, SC, this month.

June 2015
You can now read my group's publication in Risk Analysis, Understanding gaps between the risk perceptions of wildland-urban interface (WUI) residents and wildfire professionals, online.

March 2015
My publication Floodplain price impacts by property type in Boulder County, Colorado: condominiums versus standalone properties is now available online at Environmental and Resource Economics!

February 2015
Had a great time in Pensacola for the W-3133 meeting and received really helpful feedback on a new exploratory approach to analyzing the WRWC data.

January 2015
Hitting the ground running in the new year: our Risk Gap paper has been accepted to Risk Analysis!

November 2014
I've taken advantage of a fairly quiet Fall to submit (or re-submit) four manuscripts to peer-reviewed journals and complete two other reports for publication.

September 2014
I'm excited to see a pet project come to life, as my wildfire research group launches our new blog (wildfireresearch.wordpress.com)! We plan to use it to post quick summaries of our research findings - including results that are not substantial enough for a peer reviewed paper yet are potentially useful to practitioners, decision-makers, or other researchers. Another exciting development (also highlighted on the blog) is that CU just ran a press release on our IJWF paper on cost-shared mitigation!

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August 2014
This month, I gave a seminar on our wildfire research project at the Southern Research Station, which has also been kind enough to offer me an office now that I'm living in North Carolina but continuing to work for CU-Boulder (primarily on research sponsored by the Forest Service).

July 2014
Some interesting bottom-up life cycle assessment work I did with Garvin Heath while I was at NREL, Life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from Barnett Shale gas used to generate electricity, has been accepted at The Journal of Unconventional Oil and Gas Resources!

June 2014
It's conference season again! This month I presented results on the wildfire risk perception gap at the WEAI Annual Conference (Western Economic Association International) and at the WAEA Annual Meeting (Western Agricultural Economics Association).

May 2014
Our first paper from the Log Hill Mesa dataset, Cost shared wildfire risk mitigation in Log Hill Mesa, Colorado, is now published in International Journal of Wildland Fire!

April 2014
My wildfire research group's proposal to the Joint Fire Science Program, New Science Initiative, has been selected for funding! I'm a Co-PI on the proposal: "Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? Homeowner wildfire risk mitigation, community heterogeneity, and fire adaptedness."

March 2014
Kind of cool to see: my sectoral water supply stress paper with Kristen Averyt and others has now been downloaded more than 10,000 times (in about six months of being published).

February 2014
A little more than a year after joining the Living with Wildfire project, my first peer-reviewed journal article out of the effort has been accepted for publication at the International Journal of Wildland Fire!

January 2014
Listen to me talk on the radio program Connecting the Drops: Water and Power, a collaboration between Rocky Mountain Community Radio stations and the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, about electricity generation technologies and water use!

December 2013
Ending the year with a little closure, getting numerous proposals and papers submitted and our RMRS Research Note on the Log Hill Mesa dataset released online!

November 2013
I learned a lot and met a lot of great people at the NFPA's Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference this month - exciting to hear significant interest in our work on homeowner decisions about risk mitigation in the WUI!

October 2013
As always, a great experience at the CU Environmental and Resource Economics Workshop in Vail, where I presented our work in progress (and under review!) on encouraging wildfire risk mitigation on private property with cost-sharing.

September 2013
Busy! Had a great time and presented my flood paper at the Belpasso International Summer School on Environmental and Resource Economics in Sicily while Colorado was facing terrible flooding, presented some of our wildfire research to The Firewise Council of Southwest Colorado in Durango, and got a fair amount of press coverage of my recent ERL paper on water supply stress with Kristen Averyt and others!

August 2013
Four more of my energy-water publications, three led by David Yates and another by Kristen Averyt, have been accepted for the ERL special issue on Electricity, Water and Climate Connections! Those should be available soon!

July 2013
The Energy and Water in a Warming World Initiative (EW3) launched Water-Smart Power, its new report, this month. The report includes some of the modeling and analysis I am in various stages of publishing (with colleagues) and that I presented at the ASME Power 2013 Conference this month.

May 2013
I wrote a brief, condensed summary of my ERL paper on the life cycle water use of electricity generation, complete with an alternative version of one of its more complex graphics, which is now published on environmentalresearchweb.

April 2013
I was invited to present an overview of the body of recent water for electricity research I've been involved with to the Alliance for Water Efficiency's Water-Energy Research Working Group; it was a great chance to pull everything together, and I received some great questions and feedback! I also returned to the Desert RATS Trailrunning Festival this year, doing the half marathon this time, and got 2nd place in my age group ...out of 5 :-)

March 2013 - Part 2
Congrats to my PhD program, CU-Boulder's Environmental Studies, on ranking 5th among Environmental Science graduate programs in the U.S. News & World Report's 2014 Best Graduate Schools report! (Read CU's press release here)

March 2013
Nice mix of venues for presenting early wildfire risk analysis this month, including the W3133 meeting (my second time at this intimate conference for applied natural resource economists) and the monthly meeting of the West Region Wildfire Council (WRWC) (the group behind the project's survey and assessment data). It was great to meet my research partners in person and to go out into the field to visit the research site!

February 2013
More action on publications, with the manuscript of my NREL work accepted for the ERL special issue! Exciting to have that work on the life cycle water use of electricity generating technologies as a part of that special issue!

January 2013
Transitioning back to the Institute of Behavioral Science (IBS); though switching to a full-time Research Scientist at IBS, I will remain affiliated with WWA and CIRES indefinitely.

December 2012
My trip to the AGU Fall Meeting, complete with poster presentation, led to a number of great conversations on the impact of electricity generation on water resources and the general context of water resource issues.

November 2012
Busy month! My webinar on Water, Energy, and Climate Change: Freshwater Use by Power Plants for the Western Water Assessment was a great chance to pull together a lot of the energy-water work I've been involved with recently; my first co-authored paper with the Energy and Water in a Warming World initiative was accepted for publication; and the JISEA report that includes my work on estimating greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas development was released! In other news, I hit my 4th consecutive PR for a 10k road-running race, working closer to my 7 min pace goal.

October 2012
My article on heterogeneous nonmarket benefits of managing white pine blister rust, with Craig Bond and Patty Champ, is now in press at the Journal of Forest Economics!

September 2012
Quick weekend escape with a group of friends to run the beautiful Golden Leaf Half Marathon, from Snowmass to Aspen, was well worth the trip - and a great way to celebrate finding out that the Living with Wildfire in Colorado project is funded!

June 2012
I accepted a Research Scientist position with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado. The next few months will be busy as I work part time for CIRES, part time for NREL, and also attempt to publish my dissertation chapters and remaining work from my graduate research assistantship!

May 2012
I am now a PhD graduate from the University of Colorado's Environmental Studies Program!

April 2012
I successfully defended my dissertation!!!

January 2012
Once again, I've put together a ENVS Graduate Student Brownbag Seminar Series for the semester. I am not presenting this semester, but I have scheduled four speakers. Click here to see the schedule on the ENVS website.

October 2011
I presented a working version of my paper Flood Risks and Housing Markets: Differences by Property Types at the CU Environmental and Resource Economics Workshop, in Vail, CO, and received lots of excellent feedback.

September 2011
I started my internship at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in which I am reviewing the Life Cycle Assessment literature for estimates of water used by electricity-generating technologies.

June 2011
I attended the always mind-opening meeting of the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS), a broadly interdisciplinary organization, and presented an early version of my paper Flood Risks and Housing Markets: Differences by Property Types. The AESS has only had three annual meetings, and I've made it to all of them so far!

April 2011
I joined my colleagues in presenting an informal, collaborative talk on Measuring economic and ecological tradeoffs: A tale of 'ologists and 'ists working together as part of the Interactions of Society and the Environment Seminar Series (ISESS)" run by the USGS, in Fort Collins, CO.

April 2011
I gave an invited talk on Who cares about White Pine Blister Rust? (and what they care about) to the Central Rocky Mountains White Pine Health Working Group, an annual meeting among managers, researchers and forest health managers in Fort Collins, CO. They seemed pleased to hear that the public values management of the tree disease!

March 2011
I attended the Second International Science and Policy Conference on Resilience 2011: Resilience, Innovation, and Sustainability at the University of Arizona, March 11-16. While there, I gave two research talks: The Social Context of Managing High Elevation Pine Forests for Ecological Resilience and Modeling the Role of Expectations in the Dynamics of Adaptively-Managed Social Ecological Systems.

February 2011
I presented Investigating Heterogeneity in Stated Preferences for Invasive Species Management in Non-commodity Forests, a preliminary version of one of my dissertation chapters, at the W-2133 Meeting: Benefits and Costs of Natural Resources Policies Affecting Public and Private Lands in Albuquerque, NM, on February 23-25. I found this small workshop very friendly and learned a lot while there!

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