Seminal conference to explore urban coastal sustainability

By Angela Herring | Northeastern News | February 5, 2013

The majority of the world’s cities lie on a shore­line, and by 2020, two-thirds of all Amer­i­cans are expected to reside in coastal cities. From San Fran­cisco to Boston to Hong Kong, humans are living in ever-closer quar­ters with the marine species that set up shop here eons ago.

“We need to under­stand the inter­face between the human and nat­ural envi­ron­ment and deter­mine ways to solve prob­lems for both,” said Brian Hel­muth, a North­eastern pro­fessor of public policy and envi­ron­mental sci­ence.

To address those issues, Hel­muth and Geoff Trussell, chair of the Depart­ment of Marine and Envi­ron­mental Sci­ences and director of the Marine Sci­ence Center, are orga­nizing the Sus­taining Coastal Cities Con­fer­ence. The con­fer­ence will be hosted by the Col­lege of Sci­ence this spring and is the first of its kind, focusing on key issues in urban coastal sustainability.

The event will bring together four of the country’s top research sci­en­tists to address the crit­ical role and fragile state of marine ecosys­tems. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a world-renowned expert on coral reefs from the Uni­ver­sity of Queens­land in Aus­tralia, will speak on pre­dicting and pre­venting reef decline. Jeremy Jackson of the Scripps Insti­tu­tion of Oceanog­raphy in La Jolla, Calif., will examine world­wide trends and bring with him more than four decades of exper­tise in science-based policy rec­om­men­da­tions. Larry Crowder, a biology pro­fessor at Stan­ford University’s Hop­kins Marine Sta­tion, and Steve Gaines, a rocky shore ecol­o­gist and dean of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­fornia Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Envi­ron­mental Sci­ence and Man­age­ment, will also make presentations.

Fol­lowing the lec­tures, Hel­muth and Trussell will join the guests for a panel dis­cus­sion on the impact of cli­mate change on urban coastal envi­ron­ments. Richard Harris, a sci­ence cor­re­spon­dent at National Public Radio, will mod­erate the discussion.

The con­fer­ence will also serve to announce the university’s Urban Coastal Sus­tain­ability Ini­tia­tive, which will be directed by Trussell. While the ini­tia­tive began at the Marine Sci­ence Center in the Col­lege of Sci­ence, it has is expanded to include new fac­ulty in the Col­lege of Engi­neering and Col­lege of Social Sci­ence and Human­i­ties, with more expected in future.

“This con­fer­ence is yet another demon­stra­tion of North­eastern University’s com­mit­ment to crit­i­cally impor­tant sus­tain­ability issues,” Trussel said. “We are hon­ored to have these global leaders joining us for this event and excited about the major con­tri­bu­tions our ini­tia­tive will make to sci­ence, policy, and society.”

The event will take place on May 23 from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Curry Stu­dent Center Ball­room. Par­tic­i­pants can reg­ister on the Col­lege of Science’s website.

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