Assistant Professor of Forest Economics and Policy
208A Thomas Poe Cooper Building
Lexington, KY 40546-0073
(859) 257-1770
thomas.ochuodho@uky.edu



Research


Teaching

  • FOR 280 Forest Resource Policy and Law
  • FOR 320 Forest Valuation and Economics
  • FOR 602 Renewable Natural Resources in a Global Perspective (Team-Taught)
  • FOR 770: Forestry and Natural Resources Seminar
  • FOR 781 Special Problems in Forestry
  • FOR 791: Independent Study in Forestry

Education

Ph.D. Forestry 2013, University of New Brunswick, Canada

M.Phil. Forest Economics and Management 2006, Moi University, Kenya

B.S. Forestry 1997, Moi University, Kenya


Research Interests

  • Application of computable general equilibrium (CGE) modeling for policy analysis in natural resource management
  • Integrated environmental-economic modeling
  • Natural capital accounting and integration into system of national accounts
  • Applied econometrics
  • Economics of biofuels, renewable energy, and climate change 

Current Projects

Project title: Economic Analysis of Maple Syrup Production Potential in Kentucky

Brief project description: Kentucky is not known for maple syrup production like Vermont or New York. However, current data indicate potential for this as a viable enterprise for woodland owners. This project focuses on “Economic Analysis of Maple Syrup Production Potential in Kentucky”. The objectives are to assess statewide maple syrup production potential in Kentucky; conduct cost-benefit analysis; assess energy conservation measures; and assess potential economic impacts of maple syrup production in Kentucky’s economy. The project will work very closely with Kentucky Maple Syrup Association (KMSA) members. Project deliverables will include current and projected potential maple syrup production map by county for Kentucky; economic break-even production by production scale; energy and other cost-saving strategies to help producers maximize returns; and economic impacts of maple syrup production in Kentucky.

Duration: 2019-2022.


Project title: Informing Management Practice Through Understanding the Effects of Species and Tree Characteristics on Maple Sap Volume and Sugar Content

Brief project description: Maple syrup production is a traditional, non-timber forest product that yields important economic returns to landowners. A growing body of producers in Kentucky are now managing for syrup/sugar production, but the existing research and management guidelines are focused on the historical production range (northeastern United States) and tree species (sugar maple). The objective of this study is to establish a sampling network in Kentucky that will facilitate development of a model for quantifying the effect of local climate patterns, site conditions, maple species, tree size, growing space characteristics on maple sap volume production and sugar content. The project will engage with producer members of the Kentucky Maple Syrup Association to translate study results into management practices that guide sugarbush site location, tree selection, and thinning practices that increase production.

Duration: 2018-2022.


Project title: Wood Bioenergy for Rural Energy Resilience

Brief project description: Kentucky’s forest industry generates a tremendous amount of waste products, including green sawdust, wood chips, and bark, which have few stable market options and can present significant economic burden (e.g., disposal fees). However, these residuals could potentially be utilized as bioenergy feedstocks, contributing to reduced overhead costs for industry (e.g., sawmills) and/or decentralized small-scale electricity production (e.g., rural municipality energy production). Feasibility of bioenergy production is tightly constrained by transportation costs, processing costs, and markets (both alternative markets for wood residuals and energy markets); therefore, intentional spatial and economic analyses are necessary for characterizing the spatial and economic parameters for which bioenergy production from wood residuals may be economically feasible. This project will identify priority rural municipalities for establishment of small-scale wood-residual-fired power plants, based on proximity to forest industry facilities generating residuals, as well as critical infrastructure requiring reliable long-term electricity supply (e.g., hospitals, emergency management). Once these priority sites are identified, further projects could endeavor to establish pilot energy production facilities on-site, providing critical on-the-ground data to test and improve model assumptions, with the goals of diversifying energy sources and supply and improving energy resilience.

Duration: 2019-2020


Project Title:  Structural Change in Kentucky’s Forest Sector and its Economic Impact           

Brief project description: The Kentucky forest sector makes significant economic contribution to the livelihood of Kentuckians. Notably, the forest sector plays a significant role in ensuring economic stability of rural households who are most dependent on the sector for their economic well-being. However, the evolution of the structure of the Kentucky forest sector has witnessed some changing patterns in the past few years. Reduction in the share of the forest sector in total economic activity could have significant social, economic, and environmental implications. Hence, understanding the factors that cause this structural change in the sector is critical for ensuring growth and long-term sustainability of the sector. This study focuses on identifying the drivers of structural change in Kentucky forest sector and assesses the impacts of the forest sector’s structural change on economic growth and its attendant economic impacts. It is expected that this study will provide insights into how to adapt to factors causing decline in the shares of the forest sector in aggregate economic activity and inform policy-making process in response to the evolving forest sector. 

Duration: 2017-2021.


Project Title: Forest Sector Dependence and Economic Well-Being of Kentucky Communities

Brief Project Description: The forest sector plays a vital role in Kentucky’s rural economic development through provision of market and non-market goods and services in addition to employment. However, the extent of community dependence on forest sector and how this supports their well-being is not well-documented. An assessment of the level of communities’ dependence on the forest sector and the impacts of dependency on their economic well-being is critical in economic development policy-making, particularly in structuring government forest incentive programs, among others. Further, it is important to understand regional and sub-sectoral aspects of forest sector dependence and its impact on community well-being over time. In this study, we analyze patterns of regional differences in the relationship between communities’ forest sector dependence and their economic well-being, over time, in Kentucky. Results from this study will guide policy decision makers in understanding extent of communities’ dependence on forest sub-sectors by region and what factors drive this. This is vital strategic information for designing incentive programs to support sustainable and thriving forest sector. The expected results will also enable forest-dependent communities to examine their strategies for maintaining investments and coping with any negative externalities affecting the forest sector.

Duration: 2018-2020


Project title: Sustainability and Economics of White Oak (Quercus alba) Timber Supply in Kentucky

Brief project description: White Oak, a keystone species, is widely used for flooring, cabinet making, and veneer production and in particular, bourbon barrel production in Kentucky. However, current forest data from the Central Hardwood Region, shows poor recruitment of white oak. In addition, present high export demand of white oak logs has put more pressure on long-term white oak resource sustainability. Poor regeneration coupled with long rotation (70-100 years) for high quality white oak timber put additional forecasted pressure on economic sectors that rely on sustained white oak timber supply. This project assesses white oak inventory, projected white oak timber supply, and its economic impacts in Kentucky under projected future case scenarios. Project deliverables will include past and present trends of white oak recruitment; projected growth and yield of white oak timber for the next decades; and economic impacts of white oak timber supply in Kentucky. 

Duration: 2019-2021


Project title: Ecosystems Services Assessment and Valuation

Brief project description: Forests provide many benefits to society, which are often grouped into four main categories: (i) provisioning (timber, water, non-timber forest products); (ii) regulating (climate and flood control, carbon storage, water purification, clean air); (iii) supporting (pollination services, photosynthesis, biodiversity, wildlife habitat); and (iv) cultural (aesthetics, recreation, education). In the realm of economics, these benefits can be grouped into market and non-market goods and services. Market goods and services are those that are traded formally in the market and have market prices. Non-market goods and services are not traded in markets and, hence, their economic value is not revealed in market prices despite the benefits accrued from them. While market-based contributions of the forest sector to Kentucky’s economy are routinely reported, the value of non-market contributions are not well documented. This project therefore helps answer questions like: (i) what are the economic values of ecosystem services supplied by the forests in Kentucky?, (ii) how does a proposed change in forest management plan (if any) affect carbon sequestration and storage, sediment retention, water quality, and recreation?, (iii) which parts of a watershed provide the greatest ecosystem services (such as carbon sequestration, crop pollination, and tourism values?, (iv)  how will climate change and demographic growth impact forest ecosystem services provision?, and (v) what is the relationship between economic growth and ecosystem services supply? Such information would be critical for formulating forest policy and management strategies.

Duration: 2019-2023


Project title: Stakeholder Perceptions of White Oak Supply in Kentucky

Brief project description: Growing demand for white oak (Quercus alba) timber and difficulties in regenerating white oak point toward future supply issues. Implementing forest policy and management interventions to support its long-term supply will be necessary. To increase the probability that these actions will be successful, it is advisable to consider perceptions of stakeholders who are most likely to be involved with and impacted by those decisions. The combined Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat (SWOT) and Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) technique used in this study facilitated independent capturing and ranking of perceptions from three key stakeholder groups (woodland owners, forest industry, and distilling industry) regarding long-term supply of white oak.

Duration: 2017-2020


Project title: How can economic development, human well-being, and environmental sustainability be balanced in the Central Appalachian Coalfields region?

Brief project description: Thriving mining, forestry, agriculture, and chemical industries once supported local economies in the Central Appalachian Coalfields region, which includes Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. This region remains among the most impoverished in the United States, making local concern about the economic impact of phasing out coal as an energy source far from groundless. However, the region is well-positioned to embrace a vibrant, diverse economy, including manufacturing, service industries, renewable energy development, tourism, and a revived forest products industry. Experts in economic modeling, rural sociology, ecology, forestry, tourism, and policy, are collaborating with community economic development practitioners who understand the unique culture, opportunities, and constraints of the Central Appalachian Coalfields. The project goals are: (i) understand tradeoffs between the region’s economy, environment, and social welfare through various economic development scenarios; (ii) engage local decision makers and global experts to create a roadmap that guides: the achievement of substantive social and economic benefits, increased ecological resilience and connectivity, increased carbon stocks, and renewable energy technology deployment in the Appalachian Coalfields region.

Duration: 2018-2020.

Past Projects

Project title: Biotic and Abiotic Threats to Oak in Eastern U.S.

 Brief project description: Oak (Quercus spp.) plays both ecological and economic critical roles in Kentucky, the surrounding region, and arguably the nation as a whole. Oak trees dominate Kentucky’s forests and have been an important part of the forest products industry for centuries. White oak (Quercus alba) in particular, is used in the production of veneer, lumber, stave logs (wood used to manufacture barrels or casks), and railroad ties. Kentucky’s largest wood export is new and used bourbon barrels which are made from white oak.  The second largest export is white oak lumber. Sustaining white oak resources is critical to the long-term survival and growth of forest products and distilling industries responsible for generating billions of dollars to local economies, and several hundred-thousand jobs throughout the region. The goal of this survey is to identify the most significant threats (biotic and abiotic) to oaks in the regions and to gauge the potential impact of these threats on oaks. The data generated from this expert opinion survey series will be used to support subsequent analyses aimed at assessing the impact of these threats.

 Duration: 2017-2019


Project title: Natural Capital Accounting project in Rwanda

 Brief project description: The Natural Capital Accounting project in Rwanda is supported by The Nature Conservancy through Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP). SNAPP is collaborative initiative between the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), The Nature Conservancy and Wildlife Conservation Society. The project’s overarching goal is to collaborate and synthesize existing information to address key questions at the intersection of nature conservation, economic development, and human well-being in ways that will provide real world benefits for humankind. In particular, this project aims to establish the direct relationship between natural capital and the economy and the backward linkage. Results from this project will guide natural capital management policy agenda and also provide a practical field-tested case study for other regions.

Duration: 2016-2018


Photo of Thomas Ochuodho