In spring 2011, Northeastern launched
the Urban Coastal Sustainability Initiative,
which will play a critical role in
harnessing the university’s expertise in
Because a majority of the world’s
largest cities lie along a seacoast—from
Boston to New York to Shanghai—and
coastal waters are home to 90 percent
of all marine species, urban sustainability
is intimately linked with the health of
our coastal environments.
It’s at that land-sea interface that
Geoff Trussell, earth and environmental
sciences department chair and leader
of the initiative, sees the opportunity for
Northeastern to be a global champion
for urban coastal sustainability.
Under the initiative’s auspices, a dozen additional faculty members—in
fields spanning engineering, public policy,
law, and science—will be recruited;
five have been hired to date.
“We will look at how human activities
at that critical boundary influence the
sustainability of entire coastal ecosystems,”
says Trussell, who is also director
of the university’s Marine Science
Center in Nahant, Mass., where much
of Northeastern’s science on coastal
sustainability takes place (read more about the MSC here).
In addition to declining
biodiversity due to pollution
and overfishing, coastal cities share
other kinds of challenges, including economic
and security issues. Collaboration
among Northeastern experts in these
areas, as well as researchers at the
marine laboratories around the globe,
will be critical, says Trussell.
One key partnership will be between
scientists and policy experts. Professor
Brian Helmuth, one of the faculty
members recruited through the Urban
Coastal Sustainability Initiative, will lead
that effort. He joins the university in January with joint appointments in the
College of Science and the College of
Social Sciences and Humanities and will
direct Northeastern’s efforts to integrate
sustainable science and policy.
“Global change threatens urban
coastal environments, but Northeastern’s
leading science in this arena will
guide intelligent policy and spawn
sustainable commercial development
that will benefit Massachusetts and the
world beyond,” says J. Murray Gibson,
dean of the College of Science.
“The future is bright,” adds Trussell, “but there is a lot of work to be done.”