University of Calgary

OAS fellowship

December 14, 2010

Haskayne student only Canadian recipient of prestigious OAS fellowship

By Kim Lawrence

Linda Ambrosie is one of 109 graduate students from 32 countries across the Americas to receive an OAS award.Linda Ambrosie is one of 109 graduate students from 32 countries across the Americas to receive an OAS award.Linda Ambrosie looks at tropical beaches and marine parks in a much different way than most sun-starved Canadians do. Her research on the socio-economic viability and environmental sustainability of dedicated tourism sites such as Cancún, Mexico has earned her recognition as the only Canadian recipient of a prestigious Organization of American States (OAS) fellowship.

The Edmonton native, Certified General Accountant and PhD candidate at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business is one of 109 graduate students from 32 countries across the Americas to receive an OAS award, which is intended to assist recipients in defraying the costs of research and studies. Ambrosie is in Mexico working under the guidance of her supervisor Dr. Irene Herremans. They’re looking at forms of a balance sheet that can account for vital natural and social assets: the true sources of community well-being. She is also working on a pilot project involving Cancún’s marine parks.

“My research looks at the imbalance of current budgets and priorities due to the narrow focus that most nations have on gross domestic product (GDP) as a monitor of economic growth and well-being,” Ambrosie explains. “Because GDP measures flows, such as consumption and production, it encourages nations to allocate budget to economic growth rather than to the maintenance of important assets that ensure growth. This focus on income rather than assets has led to natural resource depletion, severe pollution, climate change and social strife.”

A balance sheet approach could help address some of the unintended consequences of narrowly focused budget allocations. Ambrosie cites the example of a $20-million beach 'nourishment' project recently undertaken to reverse hurricane damage on Cancún’s heavily touristed coastline. “It’s an example of economic myopia,” she says. “While the one-time project sounds great, the Cancún Marine Park service—which cares for the reefs that produce sand and shelter $2 billion of neighbouring hotel real estate—receives a miniscule annual operating budget to ensure the ongoing health of the beaches and coastal resources.”

The Cancun and Isla Mujeres Underwater Art Museum, an alternative snorkel and dive site, is an example Linda Ambrosie cites as ‘asset maintenance’ needs not being adequately addressed.The Cancun and Isla Mujeres Underwater Art Museum, an alternative snorkel and dive site, is an example Linda Ambrosie cites as ‘asset maintenance’ needs not being adequately addressed.The recent construction of an underwater museum as an alternative snorkel and dive site near Cancún is another example where ‘asset maintenance’ needs are not being adequately addressed. A small park fee is charged to visitors frequenting any of the area’s 8,500 hectares of marine parks, but the park staff does not have the budget or equipment to monitor tour operators, some of whom may profit from charging tourists the park fee but then do not pay the park.

Ambrosie’s research uses the case of Cancún as an example of how to develop a balance sheet to demonstrate the importance of natural capital, such as reefs, beaches, and mangroves to a broader community and to highlight the important linkages among natural, social and economic capitals. The OAS fellowship will provide her with living and travel expenses for the next year while she completes her doctoral dissertation.


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