NU hosts Sustaining Coastal Cities Conference

By Miharu Sugie, News Staff 

As part of Northeastern’s initiative on strengthening its scientific research in coastal ecosystems, the university hosted “Sustaining Coastal Cities Conference,” a symposium with five experts who discussed the marine ecosystems of coastal cities May 22 and 23.

“The conference is really focused on highlighting some of the major environmental issues that are facing the world’s oceans and in particular, we’re going to have some speakers focusing on climate change, coastal pollution, invasive species and a broad variety of things in general that are negatively impacting our marine ecosystems,” said associate professor Geoffrey Trussell, organizer of the conference and chair of the Marine and Environmental Sciences Department at Northeastern.

The symposium, with internationally recognized experts, marks the start of Northeastern’s Urban Coastal Sustainability Initiative, “a cutting-edge science and policy center committed to generating research and developing solutions toward the sustainability of city coastal regions,” according to Northeastern’s College of Science website. In light of the initiative, Trussell said Northeastern recruited six new professors last year:  Randall Hughes, David Kimbro, Tarik Gouhier, Brian Helmuth, Mark Patterson and Justin Ries.

“This initiative is trying to address environmental issues that are challenging coastal ecosystems,” Trussell said.


“The reason why we’re focusing on coastal ecosystems is because that’s where a large if not majority of the human population lives,” he said. “It’s where half of the world’s gross domestic product is produced and it’s also where all these environmental issues seem to be coming to head one another, so we view that as a very critical niche for us to focus on as an academic and research institution.”

Trussell said that he hoped the initiative and conference will establish Northeastern as a global leader in marine and environmental sciences. He also said he hoped the conference would familiarize people with problems in coastal ecosystems and inform people that Northeastern is trying to take a leadership role in this effort.

In selecting the panelists, Trussell said that he tried to find “people who are excellent scientists as well as excellent communicators.”

Biology professor Larry Crowder, director of the Center for Ocean Solutions and senior fellow at Stanford University’s Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, discussed marine fisheries with Steven Gaines, dean of the University of California Santa Barbara’s Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. Crowder said he hoped to address how people can transition towards sustainability for managing coastal ecosystems.

Together with Stephen Hawkins, dean of Ocean and Earth Science at University of Southampton’s National Oceanography Centre Southampton, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, professor of marine science at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia and director of the Global Change Institute, discussed the plight of marine ecosystems. Hawkins is also a professor of natural sciences. Richard Harris, a science reporter for NPR, moderated the discussions. The fifth invited speaker was Sylvia A. Earle, a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence and oceanographer, who also gave a free lecture, “Overview of Challenges Facing Marine Ecosystems,” on May 22.


Crowder said that “it could be a good start to some discussion among participants and transition from our focus on single disciplines to a focus on solving problems and situations.”

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