MarineScienceCenter 516

Members of Congress visit Marine Science Center

by Angela Herring

The squirming claws of a blue lob­ster did not deter U.S. Reps. John Tierney and Katherine Clark from get­ting their hands dirty—and soaked—as they eagerly exam­ined the rare species on Wednesday at Northeastern’s Marine Sci­ence Center in Nahant, Massachusetts.

Tierney and Clark, along with staff mem­bers from U.S. Sens. Ed Markey and Eliz­a­beth Warren’s offices, vis­ited the facility to learn more about the range of urban coastal sus­tain­ability research taking place on site and to iden­tify oppor­tu­ni­ties to work together to secure more sci­ence research funding.

Murray J. Gibson, dean of the Col­lege of Sci­ence and the event’s host, said the majority of marine labs around the country were delib­er­ately built in remote areas min­i­mally affected by human devel­op­ment. “But it turns out the impacts of man on cities by the sea have become a major issue in their own right and they haven’t been studied exten­sively,” he said.

The Marine Sci­ence Center, on the other hand, exists in a unique sweet spot set only three miles as the crow flies from Boston. Researchers here are lever­aging this advan­tage by looking at coastal marine species and their human neigh­bors as an inte­grated whole rather than sep­a­rate entities.

For example, assis­tant pro­fessor Jon Grabowski exam­ines not only the basic ecology of the fish­eries he studies, but also the indus­tries that rely on them and the eco­nomic values of the ser­vices they pro­vide. Pro­fessor Brian Hel­muth focuses on coastal adap­ta­tion to cli­mate change and pre­dicting where trouble spots are likely to emerge. He then uses that infor­ma­tion to proac­tively inform coastal plan­ners, resource man­agers, and other deci­sion makers.marine science center

Over the past sev­eral years, the uni­ver­sity has invested $15 mil­lion to improve the research facility and has added even more value in the way of fac­ulty appoint­ments, all in the name of fur­thering urban coastal sustainability.

“To be here at the Marine Sci­ence Center and look at sus­tain­ability from an urban per­spec­tive is really unique—and so needed,” said Clark, who is a member of both the House Nat­ural Resources Com­mittee and the Com­mittee on Sci­ence, Space, and Tech­nology. She added that it’s essen­tial that politi­cians dis­cuss cli­mate change and develop part­ner­ships with the sci­en­tists and stu­dents like those at North­eastern who are the fore­front of dis­cov­ering solu­tions “to the mess we’re handing them.”

These dis­cus­sions and part­ner­ships rely on good research, which relies on gov­ern­ment invest­ment, noted Tierney, who rep­re­sents the state’s North Shore where the Marine Sci­ence Center is located. “If it wasn’t for state gov­ern­ments making an invest­ment in edu­ca­tion, inno­va­tion, science—we wouldn’t be doing much,” Tierney said.

During Wednesday’s visit, the del­e­ga­tion first took a tour of the facility, which included a visit to the hands-​​on touch pool and an up-​​close look at its the state-​​of-​​the-​​art research labs. Then, the del­e­ga­tion sat for a round­table dis­cus­sion with pro­fes­sors Brian Hel­muth and Mark Pat­terson, assis­tant pro­fes­sors Jon Grabowski and Ran­dall Hughes, and a handful of post-​​doctoral researchers and grad­uate students.

The atten­dees agreed that more must be done to expand the fed­eral budget for sci­ence and to level the funding playing field for research insti­tu­tions. Tierney and Clark expressed their com­mit­ment to help make that happen. “There’s no reason we should be holding back,” Tierney said.

Originally published in news@Northeastern on May 15, 2014

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