Experimental economics study of groundwater management

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Leah Palm-Forster

Graduate Student Mentor:

Professional Staff Mentor: Dr. Ahsanuzzaman

Project Title:  Experimental economics study of groundwater management

Research Description:

We will use a laboratory economics experiment with undergraduate students at the University of Delaware to understand how time, risk, and ambiguity preferences impact cooperative behavior related to management of common pool resources (CPR) (e.g., groundwater extraction). During the experiment, we will elicit participants’ time preferences and their attitudes toward uncertainty (both risk and ambiguity). Participants will engage in a CPR extraction game, framed in a groundwater extraction setting, to analyze participants’ groundwater extraction behavior. The CPR experiments will be conducted under different settings – specifically, we will vary (i) the level of uncertainty about the groundwater stock and (ii) the policy regimes under which individuals make extraction decisions. We also vary the decision-making environments by letting participants make choices alone and in groups. 

Primary Research Questions:

  1. How can individual’s attitudes towards uncertainty (both risk and ambiguity) and time preferences influence decisions in a lab experiment on groundwater extraction?
  2. How does communication in a group impact individual decision making in a context of groundwater extraction?
  3. Which policy regimes are most effective at improving CPR management in the face of uncertainty?

Research Interns will be engaged primarily with the research project described above, but interns will have opportunities to be involved in other projects that are part of the Social Dimensions research for Project WiCCED (projectwicced.org); See Internship Descriptions for the following projects to learn about other Social Dimensions research opportunities:

  • Computer Programming for Economic Experiments
  • Evaluating How NYC “Wait” Pilot Program Inspires and Induces Behavioral Change
  • Social Networks and Oyster Consumption
  • Enhancing Farmers’ Adoption of Decision Support Tools to Improve Irrigation Management in Delaware


Student Learning Objectives:  Professional and Research Skills

This internship focuses on the development of the following professional and scientific skills.


Broad Professional Skills

Specific Skills

Planning and time management

Ability to set and complete specific foals of varying scope

Express ideas in writing

Write descriptions of research procedures, create a poster of your research, communicate via email professionally and in a timely and consistent fashion

Express ideas verbally

Discuss research activity in lab meetings, present poster at symposium

Work independently

Independent work ethic – work independently or with peers to problem solve

Develop professional network

Work with lab team and broader Social Dimensions and Project WiCCED team to develop professional network, and utilize peer-groups to problem solve.

Maintain professional attitude and work principles (i.e. integrity, responsibility, diligence, following ethical standards)

Be on time, learn procedures, ask questions if unsure, respect everyone you work with, complete and maintain Institutional Review Board (IRB) Certification to work with human subjects in research


Broad Scientific Research Skills

Specific Skills

Understand scientific terms

Behavioral, experimental and environmental economics

Locate scientific articles and resources

Conduct searches for literature on environmental valuation

Understand research questions


Read and understand research articles


Apply research tools and techniques in research experiments

Participate in the development of and data collection of surveys to quantify willingness to pay for water quality improvements.

Understand, apply, and explain scientific concepts and theories

In lab meetings, with lab personnel, and during research symposium



Introductory experience with economics (e.g., successful completion of APEC 100, APEC 150, ECON 101, or similar course)


Work Environment and Expectations:

Office/economics laboratory environment:  Work will primarily take place in 025 Townsend Hall. Hours are flexibly determined between student and mentor. Students will work part time during the fall and spring semesters, and full time during UD’s Winter Session, January 7-February 8, 2019. Students will also participate in a retreat, communications workshop, and end-of-internship spring symposium.