For Jennifer Raynor '05, the Hawaiian Islands are more than just a destination spot full of pristine beaches and the soft hum of ukuleles. The oceans are her fields of research and her subjects.
As an economist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a federal agency housed within the Department of Commerce, Jennifer explores the relationships between commercial and recreational fishing, ecological and regulatory changes, the local economy, and the vitality of the environment and community. Although she is based in Honolulu, Hawaii, Jennifer’s research territory spans NOAA’s Pacific Islands Region, which includes areas such as Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and other U.S. Pacific islands and atolls in between.
Working with other scientists and utilizing their expertise and research, Jennifer develops economic models that account for both our changing environment and the economic health of the region. Annually, recreational and commercial fishing contribute nearly $1 billion in sales and 10,000 jobs to the region’s economy, making her studies critical to understanding this vibrant economy. Because she works across the Pacific, Jennifer’s work must account for differences not only in marine life, but also in culture and economies—from the small fishing villages in American Samoa to the commercialized hotspots like Honolulu. While this variation can be challenging and requires Jennifer to think beyond “one size fits all” solutions, it affords her the rewarding opportunity to think globally and make comparisons across environments.
Jennifer first became interested in economics as an undergraduate student at Le Moyne. As an Integral Honors student, she not only developed her own research questions, but also learned to look at challenges from an interdisciplinary approach to develop comprehensive solutions. Following graduation, Jennifer worked for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but took increasing interest in the environment and the threats of climate change, compelling her to volunteer with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF). With WWF, she traveled to Laos and Thailand to assess the economic, ecological, and social impacts of climate change in Southeast Asia. She later earned Master’s degrees in Applied Economics from Johns Hopkins University and Environment and Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dedicated to her research and intrigued by the rewards of interdisciplinary work, Jennifer completed her Ph.D. in Agricultural and Applied Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2017.
With the combination of her degrees and the necessary analytical skills to work across disciplines, Jennifer is a perfect fit for NOAA where teams of natural, environmental, marine, and social scientists conduct research to support healthy ecosystems, resilient coastal communities, and productive and sustainable fisheries. While interdisciplinary work can be challenging, she recognizes how a field like economics can have an impact on our environment. “It’s much harder to do interdisciplinary work,” she says. “As researchers, we recognize its value. Expect that it won’t be easy, but know that it’s worth it.”
Economics at Le Moyne