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Combining Environmental Science with Policy and Management

Max Neale 05F examines the science, politics, and economics of the invasion and management of the Asian clam, a species that threatens Lake Tahoe's ecology and the sustainability of the regional economy.

By Michael Samuels 09F

Max Neale 05F goes at the Asian clam from all angles: In his Division III (senior) project, Ecological Implications and Management of an Invasive Bivalve, Corbicula fluminea, in Lake Tahoe, California, Neale examines the science, politics, and economics of the invasion and management of the Asian clam, a species that threatens Lake Tahoe's ecology and the sustainability of the regional economy.

"I entered [Hampshire] wanting to do photography, but I realized that wasn't my thing, or at least not what I wanted to do in academia," Neale says. "So I took a year off." For the first three months of that year, he participated in the National Outdoor Leadership School's Semester in Patagonia, mountaineering and sea kayaking through southern Chile, while learning about that area's natural history. Next, he spent four months traveling through South America, before returning home to Maine and managing a small landscaping company for the summer.

When he came back to Hampshire, Neale began "a broad-based look at environmental science," including management, politics, and economics, he says. "I'm interested in all of those areas, and the bridge between them."

His studies led him to a summer internship with a program run by the Tahoe-Baikal Institute. In that program, he studied how quickly the Asian clam re-colonized dredged areas of Lake Tahoe, looking to see if dredging effectively controls their population.

For his Div III, Neale expanded on this work, writing a thesis that discusses not only efforts to manage the Asian clam, but also the history of human activity around Lake Tahoe. He explored the political and economic factors of both polluting and protecting the lake, as well as the clam's biology and its role as a cause of algae blooms and possibly a facilitator of other invasive species. Neale includes a mock research grant proposal for an analysis tool that could predict the spread of the Asian clam, possibly improving  management.

He "also argues that the focus on preserving Lake Tahoe's legendary clarity may not represent the best use of limited government resources and political capital when compared to the many urban areas that suffer from serious environmental degradation that threatens human health - a problem not found in the Tahoe basin," said Professor of Ecology Charlene D'Avanzo, who co-chaired Neale's Div III faculty committee.

Neale gives a lot of credit to Professor D'Avanzo, and to his other co-chair, Professor of Politics and Environmental Studies Robert Rakoff. "They both excel, in two different disciplines," says Neale. "She's a great scientist and a prolific editor. Bob was particularly valuable in addressing broad-based issues, always pushing me to research new things... They're a great team."

Neale will intern this summer with the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the state agency with regulatory and planning authority over development in the San Francisco Bay. He will work as both a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) intern, studying the potential effects of sea-level rise on business and infrastructure, and as a Climate Change Adaption intern, working with Bay Area governments to improve climate change adaptation policies.

He is applying to graduate schools along the West Coast for interdisciplinary programs that combine environmental science with policy and management. "Merging field research with broader subjects like environmental economics is what I'm most interested in," Neale says.

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