Brian Helmuth

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Post Doctoral Researcher, 1997-1999, Stanford University, Hopkins Marine Station, Pacific Grove, California (Mark Denny, supervisor)
Ph.D, 1997, University of Washington; Zoology (Thomas Daniel, PhD supervisor)
MS, 1991, Northeastern University; Biology (Marine Biology; Kenneth Sebens, MS supervisor)
BS, 1989, Cornell University; Biology (Ecology and Evolution; C. Drew Harvell, research supervisor)

Area(s) of Expertise

Environmental Policy; Ecological Forecasting; Sustainability

Research Interests

My research explores the effects of climate and climate change on the physiology and ecology of marine organisms. Specifically, I use thermal engineering techniques, including a combination of field work, remote sensing and mathematical modeling, to explore the ways in which the environment determines the body temperatures of coastal marine animals such as mussels and seastars. Combined with energetics models, this approach provides a quantitative method of mapping patterns of growth, reproduction, and survival in economically and ecologically important coastal species.   A major goal of this approach (funded by NASA and NSF) is to inform decision makers with scientifically accurate and useful forecasts.  While much of my work has focused on North American rocky intertidal ecosystems, my lab also collaborates with researchers in Adelaide and Melbourne, AustraliaChileChina; Hong Kong; Italy; South Africa; and the U.K.

Our work has shown some surprising results, and has suggested that our expectations of where to look for the effects of climate change in nature can be more complex than previously anticipated. For example, our research has shown that along the Pacific coast of the U.S., animal temperatures at sites in Oregon and Washington can be as hot or hotter than sites much farther to the south in California, due to the complex interaction of climate and tides in the region. As a result, we should not necessarily expect to see mortality at the southern ends of species range boundaries, but also at these hot spots. This complexity suggests that unless we know where and when to look for impacts of climate change, many early impacts could go unnoticed.

My lab group regularly includes K-12 teachers in our research, and I am actively involved in the ongoing National Climate Assessment.

Lab Website


Prof. Helmuth is a joint appointment between the College of Science and the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs.


Marine Science Center
430 Nahant Rd
Nahant, MA 01908

Researchers use ‘robomussels’ to monitor climate change

For ecological forecasters like Northeastern’s Brian Helmuth, mussels act as a barometer of climate change. That’s why Helmuth created “robomussels”—tiny robots that look like mussels but are outfitted with sensors to track temperature conditions.

Researchers mine Twitter to reveal Congress’ ideological divide on climate change

Senate Democrats are three times more likely to follow science-related Twitter accounts than their Republican peers, according to a new study led by Northeastern’s Brian Helmuth.

As Canada wildfires rage, faculty experts examine the ramifications

Wildfires continue to rage for a third week in and around the city of Fort McMurray in Canada’s Alberta province, the country’s oil-sands capital. Some 96,000 people have been evacuated from the area and 2,400 buildings have been destroyed. We asked three Northeastern experts about how the catastrophe will affect climate change, the likely impact on U.S. consumers, and how the Fort McMurray community can recover.

“Make or break moment” in climate change

As the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change wraps up in Paris, Marine and Environmental Sciences and Public Policy professor Brian Helmuth discusses how important these meetings are and why the world should pay attention.

Climate change forces scientists to speak up

When discussing one of the most contentious topics of the 21st century—climate change—finding the balance between fact and emotion is precarious, say Northeastern faculty.

3Qs: New approach to understanding climate change

College of Science professor Brian Helmuth and a group of international researchers recently published a review paper in Climate Change Responses calling for a new approach to understanding and predicting the impact of climate change.