We sat down for five minutes with Erik Anderson, Senior Associate with Environmental Incentives. Read on to learn more about Erik’s role at Environmental Incentives, what he sees as emerging trends in conservation, and his favorite things to do around Denver!
How would you describe your role?
I was recently promoted to a Senior Associate position, and my primary role is supporting our clients in the Wildlife and Land practice area. I’m currently working on sage-grouse habitat programs in Nevada, Idaho, and Colorado; and supporting Environmental Defense Fund to develop monarch habitat on working lands in California, Texas, and the Midwest. I also lead our Metrics service line which is focused on helping natural resource programs better utilize data in decision making. In this work, we enable programs to collect, report, interpret, and use data as part of an adaptive management process. I also develop tools to aid programs in collecting data such as habitat quantification tools.
What was your dream job growing up?
From a young age I always enjoyed my math and science classes, so I thought engineering would be a good fit. At first, I thought I wanted to design rollercoasters, but then I moved on to fighter jets. When I got to college, I was curious about a wide variety of topics and explored several majors. I became more and more interested in environmental issues and their intersection with economics, which is what I eventually ended up pursuing.
What drew you to work at Environmental Incentives?
Environmental Incentives actually found me. At the time, I was working for the Colorado State Land Board developing a program to monetize ecosystem services on their nearly 3 million acres of land, which provides funding for K-12 education. The State Land Board was part of the stakeholder group developing the Colorado Habitat Exchange. Environmental Incentives was facilitating that group, which is how I met Environmental Incentives’ CEO, Jeremy Sokulsky. I started as a Research Associate and I’ve been able to continue working on the Colorado Habitat Exchange and other programs with the State Land Board since. It has been interesting to see the development of those initiatives from both sides.
What is your favorite part about working for EI?
I like the diversity of challenges that we work on. Every day presents a different set of problems and we are always working on new solutions for our clients and partners.
What trends do you see emerging in the conservation sector?
I’ve noticed that new graduates in the environmental field are increasingly trained in data analysis and capable of using tools like R and Python. With these new graduates taking roles in the industry, I think we will continue to see the adoption of more evidence-based approaches, along with the infrastructure needed to incorporate evidence into natural resources programs.
This is a positive trend and central to Environmental Incentives’ core mission. Importantly, data can help program managers make better decisions. Data provides insights into both what the problem is and how well we are solving it. Globally, we are spending a lot of money on the environment, but we aren’t necessarily getting the results that we want to see. Easier, faster, and less expensive data collection will help. Secondly, data helps ensure transparency. Most of the funding for the environment comes from the public, and I’d like to see agencies more often report back on the outcomes achieved from that funding. So not only can agencies use data to make better decisions, but they can also use it to demonstrate what they have accomplished.
If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
I would like to become better at growing my own food, so I’ve thought about becoming a master gardener. I’m constantly trying new recipes and I love cooking. I’ve also tried for years to learn Spanish, I would love to become fluent. I like to practice whenever I get the chance to travel.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love getting outside in the wilderness, especially backpacking and camping in the mountains of Colorado. I also like to learn new things. Right now, I’ve been remodeling my house and learning the inner workings of the home environment.