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About Sahan Dissanayake

Sahan T. M. Dissanayake is an Assistant Professor in Economics and a Fellow at the Institute for Sustainabe Solutions at Portland State University and a Research Consultant for IUCN-Sri Lanka.

Sahan’s main research centers on ecosystem services and land conservation and uses choice experiment surveys to study preferences and mathematical programming to model optimal resource allocation. His survey work analyzes preferences for grassland restoration in Illinois, the tree shade program to manage water quality in Oregon, payments to prevent deforestation (REDD+) in Nepal and Ethiopia, coral reefs in Okinawa, seafood Eco-labeling in New England, improved stove adoption in Ethiopia, and restoring ancient irrigation systems in Sri Lanka and received the Robert Ferber Dissertation Award for Excellence in Survey Research from the University of Illinois Survey Research Lab. His mathematical programming work has focused on optimal conservation within military installations and optimal school districting formulations. His research interests have expanded to studying spatial subsidies for renewable energy, economic impacts of fracking, and externalities affecting hydropower.

Sahan’s research has been presented at over 50 venues including the World Congress on Resource and Environmental Economics (WCERE), the Association for Environmental and Resource Economists (AERE) Summer Conference, the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) annual meeting, the Environment for Development (EfD) annual meeting and published as journal articles in leading journals including Land EconomicsEcological Economics, European Journal of Operations ResearchFish and FisheriesEcological Modeling, and the Journal of Economics Education. He also contributed book chapters to the Handbook on the Economics of Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity and the Handbook on the Economics and Management for Sustainable Oceans.

As an applied economist working on policy relevant issues Sahan believes it is important to communicate with policy makers and practitioners. Much of his research has also been published as policy briefs and technical reports including in the World Bank Research Digest, World Bank Working Papers series, the Maine Policy Review, U.S. Army CERL-Technical Reports. In addition Sahan has organized and conducted multiple capacity building short courses and workshops on the Economics of Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity (TEEB) in Ethiopia, Nepal and Sri Lanka for mid-level government ministry officials, NGO staff and students. He organized the 2017 NAREA Workshop on Climate Change and Land Conservation in D.C., was the faculty coordinator for the 2019 Conservation Finance Bootcamp and served as a faculty for the Kinship Conservation Fellows summer training program. Sahan also served on the Board of the Natural Resource Council of Maine, the largest environmental NGO in Maine during 2016/2017. 

Sahan has taught a range of classes at Colby College, Portland State University, and the University of Illinois including graduate and undergraduate microeconomic theory, mathematical economics, environmental economics, natural resource economics, the economics of ecosystem services and biodiversity, and principles of microeconomics macroeconomics. He has received recognitions for teaching including the Louis V. Logeman Graduate Student Teaching Award, the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) Graduate Student Teaching Award and has appeared on the University of Illinois’s List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent for eight semesters. Sahan is passionate about mentoring students and has guided some of his students, including undergraduate students, to present at professional conferences including the WEAI Annual Meeting, The NAREA Meeting and the Ecosystem Partnership Annual Meeting and to co-author papers in multiple journals.

Sahan received a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Applied Economics (2011) and a M.Sc. in Applied Mathematics (2010) from the University of Illinois and a B.A. in Computer Science and Economics (2004) from Ohio Wesleyan University. Sahan received multiple awards for his overall research, teaching and service including the Outstanding PhD Student Award from the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois and the Outstanding Senior Awardand the Alice Empkey Batchelor Graduate School Scholarship from the Department of Economics and the David H Staley Outstanding Junior -2nd Place Award from the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Ohio Wesleyan University. He received the Young Alumni Award from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2014. Sahan hails from Kandy, Sri Lanka, and likes to read and cook (and eat) in his spare time.


Present Assistant Professor, Portland State University Economics

Curriculum Vitae


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2011 Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago ‐ Agricultural and Applied Economics

Articles (20)

Presentations (2)

Proceedings (1)

Reports (3)