With more than two-thirds of the world’s megacities situated on the coast, urban coastal sustainability has surfaced as a top global priority.

It’s also a top university priority—and its epicenter is Northeastern’s own Marine Science Center.

Located in Nahant, Mass., five miles from the entrance to Boston Harbor and just 25 minutes from downtown, the MSC offers access to varying ocean currents and sandy and rocky shorelines.

Such proximity to city lights isn’t just convenient; it’s essential to the center’s mission: applying interdisciplinary approaches—through education, research, and community outreach—to planet-spanning urban coastal ecosystem challenges. (Read more about Northeastern’s Urban Coastal Sustainability Initiative here.)

Geoff Trussell, associate professor in biology and director of the MSC, says, “the idea in the past was to get away from humanity to understand how nature works. But having a marine lab next to a major city is key to understanding how human activities influence the natural environment”—and how the city and the natural environment can be made mutually sustainable.

The university has been investing in the MSC and its mission, with new faculty appointments in marine ecology and climate-change science, a new undergraduate marine biology major, a programmatic integration with the earth and environmental sciences department, and a recent award of a $1.8 million National Science Foundation grant to renovate the research labs.

Those investments are paying off in surging student enrollment, an increasing number of graduate students winning National Science Foundation recognition, and faculty research that is making a mark in areas such as underwater remote-sensing technology and climate-change impact on molecular genetics.

Maintaining the momentum, Trussell says, is critical to positioning the MSC as a premier hub for coastal ecology studies.

“Human health and economies are dependent on coastal environments,” he says. “By integrating insight from science, engineering, law, and policy, we can become a global leader in research, experiential-learning opportunities, and informed policy that will have immediate, tangible benefits to society.”