Marine and Environmental Sciences
Rising to the Occasion
It is in the times marked by great uncertainty that we see the potential of the human spirit. The past trials of war, famine, and disease were equally met by the will of entire generations to overcome. Now, as the reality of climate change sets in, we once again stand at the precipice of a historic and unique challenge, with a call for leadership, foresight, and great courage.
In these times, hope must be prefaced by action. Hard scientific truths will have to be reconciled with economic, political, and social ramifications. It will require a global commitment where every person, no matter their education, age, careers, or affiliations, wear the badge of scientist.
The Northeastern Marine and Environmental Science program seeks to prepare future generations of climatologists, ecologists, and marine biologists for the front lines of climate change — to reclaim our coral reefs, and oceans, our biodiversity, our air, and certainty for our future.
Focuses on basic skin diving and scuba diving skills, with emphasis on safety.
Utilizes evidence from the sedimentary rock record to evaluate and to interpret significant biological and physical events in Mesozoic earth history.
Offers a comprehensive review of the biology, ecology, and management of cetaceans.
The Three Seas Program
Northeastern’s signature Three Seas Program is a Master of Science Marine Biology program giving students the opportunity to spend a year studying in three different marine environments: New England (US), Panama and the Pacific Coast (US). The Three Seas Program is ideal for advanced undergraduates (usually in their third or fourth year of study) and first-year graduate students with a strong interest in marine biology and ecology.
Marine Science Center
Offering a pristine New England rocky shore habitat in close proximity to Boston, the Marine Science Center is a globally recognized organization dedicated to marine science research and education.
MS in Environmental Science and Policy
Northeastern’s Master’s in Environmental Science and Policy, a joint program between the College of Science and the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, provides interdisciplinary training and environmental problem-solving expertise to the next generation of environmental professionals.
Many Marine and Environmental students choose to participate in the university’s signature co-operative education program because it offers excellent preparation and exposure to exciting careers.
Environmental Studies/International Affairs
North Shore, MA
Started as Physics and switched to Environmental Science
Woods Hole, MA
When COVID-19 emerged as global threat, it demanded action. The Northeastern College of Science heard the call.
A fleet of professors, researchers, technicians, staff, and students overnight became mobilized to fight on the front lines of science. Together, and in every discipline of science, they were able to make significant contributions to the collective good: developing epidemic models, serving as advisors to local and national government, studying the structure of the virus, assisting with contact tracing, developing systems for on-campus testing, and more. Even as pandemic continues, so does their work.
Thanks to [email protected]‘s exceptional team of journalists and photographers, we are now able to present a retrospective of their work, through the first six months of COVID-19.
| March 2, 2020
Research from the Network Science Institute uses mathematical equations to track how “social contagions” spread. This data shows how to follow false news and rumors about COVID-19, and why gossip spreads like a disease itself.
Featuring: Jessica Davis (PhD student), Alessandro Vespignani
Topics: Mathematics, Network Science
| March 6, 2020
The Network Science Institute published a study showing that closing boarders and travel bans might slow the spread of COVID-19, but will not stop the spread. Their study used Wuhan travel bans as an example for America
| March 20, 2020
Thomas Gilbert explains the simple chemistry behind why washing your hands with soap is so effective at killing virus’s and bacteria. This goes into why the twenty second rule is important, and how soap as a lipid can fight the lipid casings of bacteria that water can’t dissolve.
Featuring: Thomas Gilbert
Topics: Chemistry and Chemical Biology
| March 27, 2020
Abhishek Mogili is a Biology co-op student helping prepare hospitals for the incoming onslaught of patients. Acting as an extra set of hands, he helps brace for impact with COVID, a common theme among pre-med co-ops.
Featuring: Abhishek Mogili (Co-op student)
| April 1, 2020
David DeSteno explains how rumors and fear, while useful, can get blown out of proportion. DeSteno goes on to show how this applies to the pandemic, and how to combat this unnecessary fear.
Featuring: David DeSteno
| May 15, 2020
Chemists at northeastern research possible weak points the COVID-19 virus might have. Using machine learning, coupled with knowledge of the disease’s amino acids, Mary Jo and Penny could locate these weak points, helping create possible vaccines down the line.
| June 1, 2020
The Marine Science Center had taken notice that food shelters had less volunteers during the pandemic, and was struggling to help feed people especially when the home style dining they cherished became impossible. The researchers working at the MSC stepped up to keep meals flowing for those in need.
| June 3, 2020
COVID-19 Misconceptions Are Hard to Fight. Cognitive Psychology Might Help Spot Why People Get the Coronavirus Wrong.
John Coley explains how misconceptions about COVID arise, and why psychologically they make sense. He goes on to explain how to fight these misconceptions with that same psychology.
Featuring: John Coley
| July 27, 2020
As researchers study SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 at breakneck speeds, one key aspect to keep in mind is that the research is happening while everyone watches. “The public is getting front-row seats to the scientific method, probably in a way they never imagined they would’ve experienced,” says Samuel Scarpino, who runs the Emergent Epidemics Lab at Northeastern.
Featuring: Sam Scarpino
Topics: Marine and Environmental Science
| August 5, 2020
Northeastern’s Life Sciences Center is a Cutting Edge Laboratory That Will Process the University’s Coronavirus Tests
The Northeastern Life Science Center receives permission to process the university’s coronavirus tests. This tremendous project is led by Jared Auclair, an assistant professor of biotechnology.
Featuring: Jared Auclair
| August 6, 2020
William Sharp discusses the stresses “mask vs no mask” interactions can cause, and shares how to start the important conversations surrounding them. It is always better to be aware of what everyone is comfortable with going into a public event.
Featuring: William Sharp
Congratulations to Allison Noble and Haley Bayne, this year’s recipients of the Dr. Carl Muckenhoupt Scholarship!
The Muckenhoupt Scholarship is awarded each year to Northeastern undergraduate students who will use their training in science “to benefit the environment of the earth and those upon it.” The 2020 recipients were chosen from an impressive pool of academically exceptional and environmentally inclined students.
Allison Noble (’21), Marine Biology
Noble says she has most appreciated the opportunities to do field work in a diverse array of different ecosystems, especially the oyster reefs in both Florida and Rhode Island. Her work studying stony coral tissue loss disease was featured in a news feature earlier this year.
Noble’s latest project, in collaboration with Jeriyla Kamau-Weng, another Northeastern student, is development of the Marine and Environmental Sciences Peer Mentoring program. The program — the first of its kind in the College of Science — will be launched in the fall and already has over sixty participating students!
This summer, Noble volunteered at the Trevor Zoo in Millbrook, NY for the third year in a row, and participated in a virtual internship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researching soundscapes in areas with varying levels of habitat degradation at the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Her sound ecology work will continue this Fall with a co-op at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution researching sensory and sound ecology on coral reefs.
Hayley Bayne (’20), Environmental Science
Haley Bayne (2020) is an Environmental Science student with interests in sustainability, ecology, and science communication.
She has enthusiastically seized opportunities for study and field research abroad during her undergraduate degree. One of her favorite experiences was a Dialogue course in Iceland, where she explored local geology and was inspired to consider ways that sustainable energy practices in place in that country could be and applied in the United States.
Bayne also worked in the Rosengaus Lab studying antifungal mechanisms in termites, where she honed her research skills, mentored younger students, and produced a research paper which will be published later this Fall.
Last year, she was invited to attend a research conference in the Netherlands, where she was able to attend lectures as well as network with researchers at the top of their fields. Bayne is currently taking virtual classes at Northeastern in addition to exploring new interests and developing her skills in science communication and lab research.
Congratulations to both of these scholars on receiving the 2020 Muckenhoupt Scholarship and for all of their exciting research! With co-op and research experiences throughout their time at Northeastern, these students With co-op and research experiences throughout their time at Northeastern, Bayne and Noble are well prepared to make a positive impact with their future work.
Co-ops are the cornerstone of a Northeastern University education. Applying classroom lessons to real world environments can be a transformational learning experience. So how does it work during an international pandemic?
Throughout the Fall 2020 semester, we’ll be checking in with COS co-ops to find out. Read about their unique Northeastern experiences and the ups-and-downs of COVID-19 on their work, their social life, and their thoughts on the future.
Follow the series with the hashtag #COSCoop
Meet Co-op Liana Greenberg-Nielsen, Cephalopod Aquarist at the Marine Biological Laboratory
Can you tell us what a standard day is like for you working there?
Basically we start the day by coming in and checking with our supervisor and everybody else on the team. Then we go straight into our a.m. feeds.
We net shrimp and mysids for these tiny little glass shrimp that we feed out to the hatchlings and the younger animals. We go around and we feed everything. And after that, we have to feed more things!
Then we go into feeding the octopus and they’re kind of high-maintenance and they require us to clean their tanks individually and like feed each of them individually with little tweezers, and you have to cut all the shrimps heads off because they are a little more high-maintenance.
Can you talk a bit about how COVID-19 has shaped your co-op?
Because of COVID, we have a capacity requirement in each room. There’s less people than normal in the miracle true room, which is where we keep most of the animals. Feeds take a lot longer than they would normally, because there’s only two of us going around feeding everything. So our mornings are consumed by a.m. feeds, feeding the octopuses, and mid day feeds. There’s a lot of animals and not enough people to get it done rapidly. So that’s definitely a thing that’s been affected by COVID.
After lunch, we go into either our own individual projects that we’ve been working on with our supervisors and the people on the cephalopod team, or we do animal moves or break down/set up new tanks for animals that are getting bigger, and regular maintenance.
Once that’s done, we go into p.m. feeds, and then our day’s over. It’s definitely separated by a lot of feeding in the morning and then more creative and individualized things in the afternoon.
What would you say is the “mission statement” of your co-op?
The goals of the cephalopod initiative, which is the project that I’m working for, is to create a new model organism that can be used by the biological community. We have drosophila (fruit flies) and we have mice and rats that we use right now as model organisms for a variety of different things.
So our goal is to create this new model organism. There are many different types of cephalopods, they all have these great aspects of their biology that would lend themselves to a variety of different uses. Their neurons are massive, compared to their size, and their brains are huge compared to the rest of their body. This makes them a lot like us. Also, we have a lot to learn about he the way they move, which may benefit soft robotics.
This will be the future of a lot of research. It’s like the research for the research.
Why did you choose to apply for this co-op? Is it different than what you expected, either because of COVID-19 or for other reasons?
I applied because the Marine Biological Laboratory just seems like a really cool place to work. It’s at the forefront of marine and biological research, so working here just seemed like a really exciting prospect for me.
The people who work here, like my boss, are just so passionate about the project. I’ve never met people more excited about what they’re doing. They’re excited to say things like ‘we’re going to count eggs for an hour.’ My boss will even say ‘I haven’t taken a day off in seven months because it’s so hard to leave.’ It’s just been really exciting to work with people that are so, so into the thing that they’re doing.
My idea for the job has changed a lot since coming in. I didn’t really realize how big a deal the project was. I thought I was going to take care of these squids, and that’s going to be really cool. I get to live in Woods Hole and it’s gonna be really interesting. I didn’t fully realize the scope of the project until the middle of the co-op. I was scrolling through my podcasts and there’s an NPR shortwave episode about the work that I’m doing. And it’s like, “Oh, okay.” This is very cool.
Can you talk about specific skills you’ve learned that might apply to the future, as well as anything that’s stuck with you from your college experience?
I had very little animal husbandry skills before coming into it. It was great because I think the team understands that if you’re coming in as a college student, you probably haven’t really been working with these weird organisms that long. So they’ve been really understanding and shown us the ropes. That’s a skill that I know will be useful in my future.
In a broader sense, I think so much of the job is problem solving. Those kind of job skills can be more important than the physical ones that you learn. I can take care of these animals, but I also learned to look at a system from an outside perspective and see what’s wrong with it, to then fix it from the inside.
Working with so many animals, do you have a favorite?
Well, the flamboyant cuttlefish are just so unbelievably cool looking. I feel like when I first came in, they were my favorite. Because they’re the flashiest. But I think as it’s gone on, I really like the squids. We have striped pajama squid, and we have hummingbird squid, and they’re just ridiculously cute. You don’t expect squids to be so cute, but they are, and they’re just so fun to watch.
Do you have any advice you can now offer from your experience?
Job postings don’t always explain or do justice to the full scope of a job. Once you’re really working in the field and learning everything, it can be so exciting and new. For me, I feel like this job is a perfect mixture of guided work and individual projects.
From California to Washington, the West Coast is experiencing a fire season unlike any other on record. Since August, climate change-fueled wildfires have scorched more than five million acres across the three states, taking dozens of lives, destroying thousands of buildings, and making the air unbearable for millions of people.
Benjamin Dittbrenner, an associate teaching professor in the Marine and Environmental Sciences department at Northeastern, says wetlands and beavers are an important part of the fire protection puzzle. Beaver ponds and wetlands have been shown to filter out water pollution, sequester carbon, and attenuate floods.
But perhaps a lesser-known fact about the toothy rodents is that they play a key role in creating fireproof shelters for plants and animals. And by building dams, forming ponds, and digging canals, these architects of the natural world irrigate stream corridors that help slow the spread of wildfire.