eNews November 2021

Meet the Researcher, Greg Torell, Assistant Professor, New Mexico State University

Meet the Researcher, Greg Torell, Assistant Professor, New Mexico State University

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

This month for Meet the Researcher, we had the opportunity to spotlight Greg Torell, an assistant professor for the Department of Agricultural Economics at New Mexico State University (NMSU) since 2019. Torell is currently teaching Introduction to Regional Economic Development for the Doctorate of Economic Development program, and in the spring semester he will teach an undergraduate course in case studies, an MS  course in production economics, and Microeconomics II for the doctoral students in the Doctorate of Economic Development program. He is mentoring a PhD Water Science and Management student (Chibuzo Chilaka) and an Agricultural Economics MS student (Isaac Appiah). According to Torell, one of his most important roles as an instructor is to “lift up students, give them confidence in their abilities, and help them understand their place in the world.” Due to the collaborative nature of the work within his department, he is able to spend quality time with his students, understand their needs, and become a bigger part of their lives. He feels this is unique to working in such a close-knit department; Torell appreciates the time he is able to dedicate to the needs of his students.

Torell’s main research interests center around different aspects of economics, including rangeland, resource and environment, water, energy, and applied economics. The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) are collaborating on a project titled, SWIM: Securing a Climate Resilient Water Future for Agriculture and Ecosystems Through Innovations in Measurement, Management, and Markets (SWIM). This research effort will focus on creating more advanced and robust data-driven information systems for stakeholders and other decision-makers by improving how information is shared. This will improve the accuracy of water-based judgments, measurements, and evaluations leading to more secure, sustainable surface and groundwater use. Torell is looking forward to being a part of SWIM, and believes the team has developed innovative methods for incorporating stakeholder input into their current modeling efforts. He states that “this has always been a challenge, because it’s difficult to have a replicable method for incorporating stakeholder input.” Still, he is confident the method developed by his team will push this area of science forward. Further information will be provided as the SWIM project matures.

In addition to the NM WRRI project, he is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) climate hub researchers on a USDA Coordinated Agricultural Project focusing on Raramuri Criollo Cattle, and how they fare under climate change conditions in the arid/semi-arid southwest compared to English breeds of cattle. Torell and his team are also investigating cattle supply chains in the telecoupled rangeland-Ogallala aquifer system, and how cattle genetics and grass finishing could be having an impact.

Over the course of his career, Torell has collaborated with numerous researchers to co-author several publications. His latest study titled, Assessing the Impact of Exceptional Drought on Emissions and Electricity Generation: The Case of Texas will be published in 2022 in The Energy Journal.. This study investigates how power plants in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) power grid respond to drought and how drought impacts power plant greenhouse gas emissions. According to Torell, it was discovered that the ERCOT system uses a large number of natural-gas-fired power plants instead of large coal plants, which leads to the decline of greenhouse gas emissions in drought conditions. To read more about this study, please click here.

Torell has presented his research at conferences both domestically and internationally, with his most recent presentation taking place at the American Water Resources Association International Conference held in Beijing, China (2019). Torell graduated with two BA degrees, Economics and Foreign Languages (German), and an MS in Agricultural Economics from NMSU. He achieved a PhD in Economics from the University of Wyoming (UW) in 2016.

Torell has served his community and university by being an active member in several societies and outreach efforts. He is the Awards and Acknowledgment Committee Chair, Board Member of the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable, and a Merit Reviewer for the National Science Foundation Solar Energy Technologies Office, among many other appointments. Torell has received awards from UW for his exceptional work, including the Attilio and Hedy Bedont Outstanding College of Business Graduate Student Award and the Department of Economics and Finance Best Graduate Student Teaching Award.

As both a researcher and a professor, Torell states that one of his primary goals is to be useful in solving natural resource and environmental issues by assisting others with his research findings and outcomes. He would also like to create new courses that enrich the lives of his students, and provide them with skills they can call upon as they advance their careers. Regarding future work, Torell shared that he and other researchers across the western U.S. are actively seeking funding to explore connections between the sage grouse habitat, cattle ranchers who rely on that habitat for their livelihoods, and ranching community economic health. He believes there are many questions about whether the economic health of communities that rely on rangeland and native animal and plant species can coexist together, particularly with changing climates and the globalization of markets. There are “always fascinating questions within the agricultural field, because all of [the] questions lie at the intersection of the hard sciences and the humanities…,” Torell affirms. “Farmers manage and live off natural resources that are governed by natural processes, and since everyone has to eat, this field of study will always be critical to our existence.”