Stanford Firestone Medal awarded for aquaculture thesis

Ross Feehan has written a very interdisciplinary thesis, spanning the fields of aquaculture production, climate, risk analysis, and ethics. As an Earth Systems major with a strong concentration in religious studies, Ross worked hard to bridge his interests in a piece of work that is relevant to smallholder producers and policymakers in China and in other producing countries. Ross’ thesis is well-written, well-documented, and firmly grounded in several core disciplines of Earth Systems.

Ross analyzed the role of index insurance for extreme weather impacts on aquaculture production in great detail. He used the science to develop a statistical method for evaluating risk and insurance market behavior. He also devoted much effort to designing an ethical approach that incorporated values that he could understand and assess in the context of insurance schemes. His attempt to integrate two major fields of interest from his undergraduate and co-term training at Stanford is laudable. Feehan was advised by FSE director Rosamond L. Naylor.

Thesis abstract

China’s aquaculture industry, which is the largest in the world, is predominantly uninsured. Aquaculture insurance in China remains to be nascent despite previous and ongoing efforts to insure farmers against diseases, natural hazards, and other threats. This study assesses the opportunity for insurance development in China and suggests an aquaculture insurance solution for Hainan Province using quantitative and qualitative analyses. An index insurance program in Hainan Province could utilize typhoon and rainfall measures as proxies for the damages that aquaculture farmers experience. This program could insure farmers across Hainan, though calculations of risk reveal that some of Hainan’s administrative regions are more perilous than others. Risk in Hainan will increase as climate change intensifies. Now, and in the future, aquaculture insurance should assume a greater role in Hainan’s management of natural hazard risk only if insurance and its provisioning abide by both practical and ethical criteria that, inter alia, uphold the value of all creation.