A global network for marine sustainability

In this guest blog post to iNSo­lu­tion, Jen­nifer Mocarski, who works in Northeastern’s Urban Coastal Sus­tain­ability Ini­tia­tive, writes about INSHORE, a newly formed global net­work of marine scientists.

Ear­lier this semester, an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary group of experts from around the world came together at Northeastern’s Marine Sci­ence Center to form a new inter­na­tional net­work of sci­en­tists that col­lab­o­rate to advance research and under­standing of how marine organ­isms respond to cli­mate change.

The group, which was co-​​founded by North­eastern pro­fessor Brian Hel­muth, is called INSHORE, short for Inter­na­tional Net­work for the Study of Rocky Inter­tidal Ecosys­tems. This global web of marine sci­en­tists includes par­tic­i­pants from Aus­tralia, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Iraq, Italy, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S. All share an interest in organ­isms that live along the world’s coast­lines, and the goal of INSHORE is to pre­dict vul­ner­a­bility of key marine species to ongoing and future envi­ron­mental change on the world’s shore­lines. INSHORE will also explore ways to facil­i­tate the par­tic­i­pa­tion of sci­en­tists from devel­oping nations in cli­mate research, and to explore new ways of informing the public about the changes that its mem­bers are seeing.

INSHORE members from around the world, from left: Gianluca Sarà, University of Palermo, Italy; Mark Patterson, Northeastern; Wenyuan Xu, University of South Carolina; Gray Williams, University of Hong Kong; Brian Helmuth, Northeastern; Nova Mieszkowska, Marine Biological Association, United Kingdom; and Dan Distel, Ocean Genome Legacy, Northeastern.

INSHORE mem­bers from around the world, from left: Gian­luca Sarà, Uni­ver­sity of Palermo, Italy; Mark Pat­terson, North­eastern; Wenyuan Xu, Uni­ver­sity of South Car­olina; Gray Williams, Uni­ver­sity of Hong Kong; Brian Hel­muth, North­eastern; Nova Mieszkowska, Marine Bio­log­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, United Kingdom; and Dan Distel, Ocean Genome Legacy, Northeastern.

To help under­stand how INSHORE will func­tion, per­haps I should start at the begin­ning. Hel­muth wanted to con­nect his col­leagues who share research inter­ests, and they too wanted to col­lab­o­rate reg­u­larly and expand the group glob­ally. Each a dot on a world map, they wanted to for­mally and con­sis­tently con­nect the dots in a way that made the sharing of data and knowl­edge simpler.

Fast for­ward to October, when five of the INSHORE mem­bers recon­vened at the MSC: Hel­muth; Gray Williams from the Uni­ver­sity of Hong Kong; Nova Mieszkowska from the Marine Bio­log­ical Asso­ci­a­tion in the United Kingdom; Gian­luca Sará from the Uni­ver­sity of Palermo in southern Italy; and Wenyuan Xu from the Uni­ver­sity of South Car­olina. The meeting served as the offi­cial launch of INSHORE’s new web­site (designed by Northeastern’s in-​​house design studio SCOUT), as well an oppor­tu­nity to fine tune the network’s goals, and host a multi-​​evening work­shop for the Marine Sci­ence Center and stu­dents in Northeastern’s Three Seas pro­gram. INSHORE mem­bers and Northeastern’s Ocean Genome Legacy pre­sented to a group of 40 stu­dents and fac­ulty of the Marine Sci­ence Center community.

Williams, director of The Swire Insti­tute of Marine Sci­ence in Hong Kong, kicked things off with a case study in counting sea urchins at Cape d’Aguilar, a marine reserve in south­eastern Hong Kong Island.

Each seg­ment of the work­shop built upon the pre­ceding seg­ment, as dis­cus­sion topics included method­olo­gies for sur­veying rocky inter­tidal organ­isms across large geo­graph­ical dis­tances, and how to use mod­eling methods to pre­dict the fate of real marine pop­u­la­tions under mul­tiple stres­sors and varying conditions.

Northeastern professor and INSHORE co-founder Brian Helmuth

North­eastern pro­fessor and INSHORE co-​​founder Brian Helmuth

Next up for INSHORE is the devel­op­ment of inter­na­tional bio­di­ver­sity mon­i­toring pro­grams that are easily trans­ported to and adapted by other marine labs. Already Hel­muth and other INSHORE mem­bers are working with col­leagues at the Uni­ver­sity of Basrah’s Marine Sci­ence Center, in southern Iraq, to create a series of training videos that will explain the latest sci­en­tific methods in thermal mod­eling and sensor devel­op­ment; equip stu­dents with envi­ron­mental log­ging devices; and facil­i­tate new data col­lec­tion and archiving, all from their corner of the globe. Working with the U.S. State Depart­ment, the group hopes to get equip­ment in the hands of Iraqi sci­en­tists, who can then col­lect data using the same methods already in use by other INSHORE members.

Williams described research done from the com­fort of an office as research “done badly,” and encour­aged the group to mea­sure bio­log­ical vari­ables cor­rectly, by get­ting out into the nat­ural environment.

For INSHORE, this will mean the nat­ural envi­ron­ment of one’s own coast, as well as coasts along every con­ti­nent in the world.