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November 28, 2018
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

Faces of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Tammy Murphy: Economist

We continue our series to introduce the people who work at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC). Each month we feature a new "face" from the Center's five laboratories and share with you a bit about who they are, what they do at the Center, and what they enjoy doing in their spare time.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts, which is now referred to as the "South Coast" area of Massachusetts. My parents and siblings still live in Fall River.

Where did you go to school and what subject did you get your degree(s) in?

I went to the University of Massachusetts Amherst for my bachelor’s degree and majored in economics. While I was there I took a number of classes in the Resource Economics Department, which has an environmental economics focus. After earning my bachelor’s degree, I went to Boston College, with a plan to specialize in public economics. Public economics focuses on the government sector, examining the effects of taxation and expenditure programs at various levels of government. The link between the environment and our societal well-being kept calling to me, so after completing my master’s degree in economics at Boston College, I went back to UMass Amherst and enrolled in their graduate resource economics program, which is where I earned my Ph.D. My dissertation focused on the valuation of environmental health risk, using drinking water as a case study. I’ve always been interested in how the quality of the environment affects human health, so I also took some graduate level courses in public health while I was pursuing my doctorate in resource economics.

Tell us a little about how you came to the NEFSC.

After I finished graduate school, I spent a decade in two academic positions in New England, teaching environmental and natural resource economics, microeconomic theory, statistics and econometrics, public policy and risk analysis. I also ran an undergraduate economics internship program for 8 years. During that time, I was an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow. During my fellowship, I worked in Washington, DC in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water on three drinking water regulations that were implemented under the Safe Water Drinking Act. My fellowship led me to start considering careers outside a traditional academic setting. Because I grew up not far from Woods Hole, I was aware of the Center and the other science-based organizations in the area and thought the area would be a very stimulating place to work. I applied for a contractor economist position at the NEFSC and started in that position in 2011. My timing was very fortunate, because later that year, a federal position opened up in the Social Sciences Branch and I was hired into that position. I have never worked with a more enjoyable group of people than those in the Social Sciences Branch.

What do you do at the NEFSC?

My time is split between fisheries management support, data collection, and primary research. All of this work has the goal of being able to predict the economic and social impacts of fisheries management decisions on fishing communities. Currently, I provide economic expertise to the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Action Team, and I have also worked on the Monkfish and Whiting Plan Development Teams. I have also been the lead on the NEFSC report on the economic performance of the groundfish fishery since joining NEFSC in 2011. For data collection, I am the lead for the cost survey of commercial fishing business that my group conducts periodically. For research activity, I work on the development and reporting of economic and social performance measures, commercial fishermen health and safety, understanding fishermen’s decisions around exit and entry into specific fisheries and the fishing industry, and the valuation of ecosystem services.

What you like most about your position?

I am very intrigued by people and how they go about making choices, so my favorite part of any job will always be interacting with others, be it my colleagues or fishermen. I am a deep believer in the idea that you cannot continue to learn or grow if you are unwilling to step outside your bubble. I also consider myself very fortunate that I work for an organization that has a mission that I believe in – not everyone gets that in their work life.

What are some of your hobbies?

I love being outdoors; there is a real sense of peace in that for me. But I am hopelessly non-athletic, so mostly I hike and kayak. My family and I are lucky in that we live very close to the Blue Hills Reservation. My husband, daughter and I spend a lot of time there, bringing along our two dogs. I’ve also done some volunteer work for my town as a conservation commissioner and neighborhood advisory panel member. I have been an avid reader since I was a kid. In the last few years, I’ve gotten into archery, using a traditional recurve bow. I never learned an instrument or how to read music as a kid, so I started taking piano lessons a few years ago – that has been a real challenge for me. My daughter is eleven years old and into singing and theater, so that also keeps my family busy.