Why I Do Science

David Zilberman

David Zilberman

I am an agricultural and environmental economist, analyzing policies and patterns of behavior and their implications (gainers and losers) while suggesting ways to improve policy choices. My research strategy is to identify major policy problems, study the principles of science associated with them, and analyze behavior and policy.

When I studied water, I found that farmers underinvest in conservation technologies partially because they cannot sell the water they save. I also found that water trading can increase production while providing water for environmental services. When I studied GMO varieties that control pests, I realized that in the United States they mostly replace pesticides, but in developing countries, where pesticides are not available, they increase yield, increasing production and reducing commodity prices substantially.

My early life prepared me for where I am today. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a basketball player, but very soon learned that I was better at counting points than scoring them. I learned agriculture while working on a kibbutz in Israel, and I worked full time in computers while in college, where I enjoyed speaking with customers, solving their problems, and designing programs to meet their needs. I learned that designing good solutions requires understanding human systems, so I decided to study economics in graduate school.

I was attracted to agricultural economics at Berkeley because I knew agriculture, and Berkeley was “cool.” I did my dissertation on animal waste—a major problem that no one else wanted to touch.

My research interests have evolved over the years. I’ve studied technology, environmental services, pesticides, biofuels, and risk. I enjoy tackling complex problems and finding solutions to relevant questions, and I treasure being part of a team and preparing a new generation of researchers and scholars.

David Zilberman holds the Robinson Chair of Agricultural and Resource Economics. He established the Berkeley Master of Development Practice and the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program at CNR. He is a fellow of the American Agricultural Economics Association and the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists.