Dr. Olesya Savchenko, assistant professor in Food and Resource Economics, was recently awarded a Global Fellowship from the University of Florida International Center to conduct environmental economics research into invasive plant management in New Zealand.
Savchenko is one of 16 faculty across the University of Florida to be named a Global Fellow for the 2022-2023 academic year.
As a Global Fellow, she was awarded a grant that will go towards expanding her current research program on invasive species management to an international scope.
Savchenko has been working with the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Species to study stakeholder preferences and perception of management practices for Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) in Florida.
Hydrilla, an aquatic plant originally from Asia and introduced to the Florida environment through its use in aquariums, is an incredibly invasive plant that can cover entire water body surfaces in just 1-2 years after its initial introduction. This disrupts the natural ecosystems by blocking sunlight and killing off native plants, reducing available oxygen leading to fish kills, and blocking access to the water for navigational and recreational purposes.
“Similar to Florida, New Zealand also has a lot of invasive species,” Savchenko said. “By comparing policy approaches in New Zealand to Florida, we can gain better insights into stakeholder preferences and the best ways to gain public support for invasive species management practices.”
In addition to working with colleagues across UF/IFAS, a central part of the fellowship includes working with a mentor. For Dr. Savchenko, that mentor is a fellow natural resource and environmental economist Dr. Sherry Larkin. Dr. Larkin is a tenured professor of Food and Resource Economics and serves as the director of Florida Sea Grant.
“I am thankful to my mentor Sherry Larkin, who is providing invaluable guidance and advice as I pursue the project in New Zealand as a Global Fellow and beyond this project as I continue to develop my international research and teaching program,” Savchenko said.
In early 2023, Savchenko will lead an interdisciplinary team of researchers, Drs. Candice Prince and Gregory Macdonald from the UF/IFAS department of Agronomy, to travel to New Zealand. She will also present at the 67th annual conference of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society (AARES).
While in the country, she will be conducting survey research, meeting with policymakers, program managers and researchers from a variety of institutions, including Lincoln University, Landcare Research – New Zealand’s Crown Research Institute, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, and AgResearch, among others. She will also be collecting data to develop engaging teaching material that she will integrate into her classroom.
“That is truly what I am most excited about,” Savchenko said. “This fellowship opens up so many opportunities to establish international connections in New Zealand that may blossom into future research and teaching collaborations and the ability to connect students globally.”