More than half of the world’s population lives by the coast, with a growing fraction in cities. Coastal cities contribute half of global GDP, and more than two-thirds of the world’s megacities are on the coast. Unprecedented global change is placing the world’s oceans and the functions, goods and services they provide in a precarious state. Human activities have led to rapid deterioration of these vital ecosystems. Coastal cities worldwide share a unique set of common issues that must be solved to achieve sustainability. Challenges include climate change and sea-level rise, collapsing fisheries, the spread of invasive species, the loss of biodiversity, increased coastal pollution and port security. Building on the unique College of Science facility and faculty of the Marine Science Center we will position the University to take global leadership in urban coastal research. Located on the ocean at the entrance to Boston Harbor, no other research station in North America is so well situated for this role as is our Marine Science Center in Nahant.
We are marshaling the resources to address the critical need for sustainable urban coastal environments. In the last year we have hired an expert in fisheries biology, and merged the Marine Science Center with the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences to create a platform for our educational and research programs in sustainability. We have also created a new undergraduate major in marine biology and raised over $2M to begin building improvements at Nahant. We plan to hire a dozen new faculty, augmenting our existing nine, in areas including the effects of global change on coastal ecosystems, fisheries and mariculture, evolutionary and ecological genomics, earth-surface processes and the land-sea interface, ocean acidification, urban pollution, coastal remote sensing, coastal ecosystems engineering, conservation management and policy, and environmental law. Several of these appointments will be joint with the College of Engineering and College of Social Sciences and Humanities, and the School of Law. Together with proposed developments in research and teaching infrastructure at Nahant that will be supported through philanthropic, government and university resources, we will transform the Marine Science Center into an internationally-recognized, interdisciplinary research hub for cities by the sea.
The new Urban Coastal focus for Northeastern’s Marine and Environmental Sciences provides an outstanding opportunity to deepen the teaching and global research experiences for our undergraduate majors in environmental science and environmental studies, and to expand our graduate offerings. Our urban coastal research center will nurture advanced technology for sustainable development and resource harvesting, stimulate visionary policy for sustainable economic development, and route a global network of resources and opportunities through Boston.