As Hurricane Lee approaches, ocean sensors deployed by Northeastern researchers will study wave and storm surge
by Cyrus Moulton

A hurricane is coming. Northeastern researchers Julia Hopkins and Jim Chen will be monitoring wave action and storm surge in Boston Harbor near Quincy, a portion of Cape Cod and western Penobscot Bay in Maine.

Billions of tons of plastic are choking the ocean. She’s here to clean it up.
by Roberto Molar Candanosa

Northeastern graduate Amanda Dwyer did her doctoral research on how corals survive changing ocean conditions. Her next task is to help reduce the impact of billions of tons of plastic in the world’s oceans.

A former ballet dancer makes a 10,000-mile journey in search of oyster microbes
by Andrew Fenton-contributor

Andrea Unzueta-Martinez, a doctoral candidate at Northeastern’s Marine Science Center, spent three months at the Port Stephens Fisheries Institute raising oyster larvae to try and figure out how they acquire their microbiome—the environment or from their parents?

To predict our future climate, they’re digging into the mud of the past
by Laura Castañón

Using molecules left in the mud of an Illinois lakebed by long-dead bacteria, Muñoz and his colleagues have reconstructed ancient climate conditions in the midwestern United States. Their results, published earlier this year, could help us understand what’s in store for the region’s future as the planet continues to warm.

Understanding Nitrogen’s impact on coastal zones
by Sierra Muñoz

A recent study, led by Dr. Jennifer Bowen, associate professor and associate chair of the Northeastern’s Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences, synthesizes a decade of research from her team and collaborators, focused on understanding human impacts on the structure and function of salt marsh systems.

Sea otters are a lifeline for reefs in a changing ocean
by Laura Castañón

With their round, furry faces and tendency to hold hands while they sleep, sea otters seem almost perfectly built to appeal to our sense of the adorable. But they also play a vital role in protecting their ecosystem from the effects of climate change.

Our plastic pollution problem may have more significant consequences than we think
by Eva Botkin-Kowacki

Plastics are everywhere. They’re in our water, in our food, and even in the air we breathe. They show up in remote glaciers and deep in the ocean. And plastic is largely made up of carbon, which is released into the environment when that trash breaks down. So when Aron Stubbins was planning lectures about the Earth’s carbon cycle, he decided to take a look at how much carbon that plastics were adding to our planet’s natural systems.

This robot is going to map uncharted kelp forests in the Arctic–and the impact of climate change
by Emily Arntsen

Fetch, the autonomous underwater robot developed by Mark Patterson, professor of marine and environmental sciences, will travel to the Canadian Arctic to explore kelp forests, an ecosystem largely uncharted by marine biologists.

When a heatwave comes, this scientist takes a shellfish’s perspective
by Eva Botkin-Kowacki

As severe heat waves are becoming more frequent and more intense in many parts of the world, coastal researchers are increasingly finding the cooked carcasses of creatures that make a living in the part of the shore where the tides cyclically expose and quench the landscape, called the intertidal zone.

Climate change could destroy 95% of surface ocean conditions
by Eva Botkin-Kowacki

As much as 95% of the climates in the surface ocean that exist today could completely disappear within 80 years, according to new research led by Katie Lotterhos, associate professor of marine and environmental sciences at Northeastern. That means that the creatures that live there could soon be subject to conditions that they have never experienced—and some of those conditions might literally erode their skeletons and shells.

How data from Hurricane Ida can help bolster levees, power infrastructure
by Hillary Chabot

As Hurricane Ida’s blistering 150-mile-per-hour winds and 15-foot storm surge raced toward Louisiana early Sunday morning, Northeastern professor Qin Jim Chen was wide awake in Boston coordinating a last-minute bid to capture critical data from the eye of the Category 4 storm.

What COVID-19 can teach fish farmers
by Hillary Chabot

When it comes to the business of seafood, COVID-19 hasn’t been nearly as damaging as the ecological havoc caused by humans, a recent global survey of fish farms found. More than 80% of the 585 fish farms surveyed worldwide reported that the economic losses from human-caused issues such as climate change, pollution, and flooding far outweigh losses from supply-chain hiccups or a loss in buyers caused by the pandemic.

Are we part of nature, or separate from it? How you answer matters.
by Eva Botkin-Kowacki

Solutions to environmental issues are “often not technically difficult,” says Brian Helmuth, professor of marine and environmental sciences. “The tricky part comes in to get the buy-in from people and in the willingness to act.” So Helmuth, Jon Coley, professor of psychology, and their colleagues decided to test how differently framed questions affected people’s beliefs about stewardship and environmental responsibility.

Could AI help imperiled marine species survive climate change?
by Eva Botkin-Kowacki

Earth’s oceans are warming and becoming more acidic as the climate changes. For much of the flora and fauna of the sea, that could mean extinction, unless species can adapt to new conditions and food sources—or migrate to more hospitable waters. But imperiled species might be able to get a helping hand from humans, says Katie Lotterhos, associate professor of marine and environmental sciences at Northeastern, as long as scientists can accurately determine which species will need an assist.

Microplastics are everywhere, but their dangers largely remain a mystery, experts say
by Jackson Cote - contributor

They are everywhere: in riverbanks, on glaciers, in deserts, in fish populations, even in the air we breathe. And these are just a few of the places where scientists have found microplastics, plastic debris roughly the size of a sesame seed that move easily through the environment, the impact of which remains somewhat of a mystery, Northeastern University experts say.

How architects can make buildings ‘aware’ and benefit the local environment
by Eva Botkin-Kowacki

There are many ways that infrastructure transforms its immediate surroundings, and that can impact the other inhabitants of a neighborhood, whether they’re plants and animals or humans, says Michelle Laboy, assistant professor of architecture at Northeastern. But during site planning, she says, architects typically look at the climate of the broader region rather than the development’s specific street corner.

Northeastern student probes environmental changes in Spartina Grass, Salt Marsh Hero
by Cynthia Hibbert

The tall slender leaves of the marsh grass spartina that edge coastal areas from the Atlantic Coast to the Gulf of Mexico in the United States function as an environmental workhorse, halting erosion and grabbing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it in the soil. “It’s a foundation species in marshes. It holds the sediment in place, which is really important for erosion purposes. It provides habitat for critters—snails, crabs, fish,” says Northeastern University doctoral student Johanna L’Heureux.

Northeastern’s Marine Science Center helps inspire future leaders from Boston youth academy
by Ian Thomsen

Thirty-two visitors, ranging from ages 14 to 22, were touring the Marine Science Center on Tuesday as part of the We Belong Leadership Academy, a program launched with nine students in 2016 by the Boston Police Department’s Bureau of Community Engagement that connects young people with leaders in profit and nonprofit businesses, government and the community.

Recreational fishermen could be ‘untapped allies’ in the fight against climate change, Northeastern research says
by Cynthia McCormick Hibbert

Nature lovers tend to be categorized as either “appreciative” or “extractive.” The first group includes people like hikers and bird watchers, while the second includes hunters, fishermen and fisherwomen. A recent study by Northeastern marine biologists says there’s an overlap between the two groups that could be the start of a new conversation about protecting the environment—and combating climate change.

California is once again being deluged by atmospheric rivers. What are they and will climate change make them worse?
by Cynthia McCormick Hibbert

California is once again being deluged by atmospheric rivers that have unleashed major flooding across the state, with river number 12 scheduled to dump more precipitation the week of March 19. Experts from Northeastern explained in a story that originally ran in January what causes these flowing streams of vapor that causing the record rains and deadly floods that have put millions of people under an evacuation order.

Monarch butterfly nowhere to be found in some state wildlife action plans, new research shows
by Tanner Stening

The monarch butterfly is one of the most widely recognized and admired creatures native to North America. The iconic critter, identified by its vibrant, sunset orange color and speckles of white dotting its black borders, has suffered significant population loss in recent decades. Last year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the monarch butterfly as endangered. But the U.S. has yet to do the same, and many states that harbor the migratory insect don’t list it as a species in need of conservation, according to new Northeastern research.

Can reefs be designed for immunity? Genetic research is identifying disease-resistant super corals in the Caribbean
by Cynthia McCormick Hibbert

Witnessing disease outbreaks that have nearly annihilated staghorn coral colonies in the Caribbean, Northeastern scientist Steven Vollmer wondered what lessons a few lone survivors might offer for the future of coral reefs. Would it be possible to identify disease-resistant corals by their genetic makeup? And if the hardier types were specially selected for underwater coral nurseries, would the result be healthier reef systems?

Can Infrastructure and Tourism Endure Triple-Digit Temperatures, Extreme Weather During ‘Danger Season’?
by Cynthia McCormick Hibbert

The heat wave striking Europe has sent temperatures in Britain above 40 degrees Celsius–or 104 Fahrenheit—for the first time ever, caused wildfires in France and killed more than 1,000 people in Spain and Portugal. Northeastern University professors say it is a sign of more to come as climate change continues to create extreme weather challenges.

Where Environmental Science and Policy Collide: A Look at the New Master’s Program
by Sage Wesenberg

When it comes to environmental issues, there has always been a lot to learn and a lot of potential for action. Scientific understanding of ozone depletion led to the banning of CFCs. Climate research has helped us to understand the contributions of fossil fuel burning and greenhouse gas emissions to global warming.

NU Talks: Creating Cleaner, Safer, Smarter Coastal Communities
by CSI Staff

On sustainability, professor Geoffrey Trussell, director of Northeastern’s Marine Science Center and chair of the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences, addresses the “collision between humanity and the environment.” How, he asks, can we create cleaner, safer, smarter coastal...

Science and Politics: Finding Common Ground
by Thea Singer

Science and politics: The relationship is hotly debated in the news these days, with both lawmakers and the public noting a great divide between support for research among Republicans and Democrats.

But two papers by Northeastern researchers point to a subtler—more conciliatory—...

Northeastern Co-Hosts Capitol Hill Briefing on Coastal Sustainability
by Jason Kornwitz

Northeastern co-hosted a Capitol Hill briefing on coastal sustainability on Wednesday afternoon, convening a panel of stakeholders to discuss the threats facing coastal communities and the best practices for keeping them secure.

Mississippi River Keeps Flooding and Humans Are to Blame, Data Show
by Allie Nicodemo

Transforming the Mississippi River to its current state has been like domesticating a wild wolf. The river today is generally calm, easy to navigate, and friendly to people living and farming nearby. But without billions of dollars in engineering over hundreds of years, we’d be dealing with a...


Robotic Mussels Track Rising Temperatures for Climate Research
by Tatiana Schlossberg, The New York Times

If you were to stare down into one of a few dozen intertidal pools at low tide, as waves glide in and out, you might have a hard time spotting the robots.

That’s because they look just like the real mussels that surround them.

“It’s a problem finding them again,” said Brian...

Bridging the ‘Practice Science Gap’ to Optimize Restoration Projects
by Lori Lennon

As restoration projects throughout Massachusetts and the country focus on restoring natural ecosystems, researchers are looking for ways to better bridge the “practice science gap” between practitioners and biodiversity research in an effort optimize these types of projects. The findings...

Snails Shown to Pass Along Fear of Predation to Offspring
by Carole McCauley

The Trussell Lab has been studying the “ecology of fear” for some time now, and the extent to which parents pass along their fear of predation to their offspring. Sarah Donelan, a postdoctoral researcher, recently...

Zooplankton May Transmit White Band Disease to an Endangered Coral
by Carole McCauley

Tropical corals are severely threatened by white band disease, which can destroy the tissues of several species in the Caribbean. Researchers from the Vollmer and Patterson Labs, working from a base at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, have explored the possibility that...

Assessing Oyster Reef Restoration’s Longer-Term Impact on Ecosystem Services
by CSI Staff

The ecosystem services provided by restored seagrass, salt marsh, and oyster reef habitat will likely continue to evolve for decades, but post-restoration monitoring of these projects is often limited to the time frame of grants, which are often funded just for one or two years. Research from...

Researchers Inhibit Transmission of Disease Affecting Tropical Corals
by Carole McCauley

Recent research published in Environmental Microbiology by Rebecca Certner and her advisor, Steve Vollmer, contributes to the emergent field of quorum sensing as a mechanism for coral disease development, specifically for white band disease in the critically endangered...

New Interdisciplinary Faculty Brings Expertise and Accolades
by Gwendolyn Schanker

When Aron Stubbins first arrived in Boston during the first week of January 2018, he received a snowy and cold welcome. It was a big adjustment from the weather at his previous home at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in...

Water Withdrawals May Lead to Decline of Florida Oyster Fishery
by Carole McCauley

Research by assistant professor David Kimbro has been considered in a water rights battle that made it all the way to the US Supreme Court recently. Kimbro’s work studying oyster populations in Apalachicola Bay, Florida,...

‘Unicorn’ Shipworm Could Provide Clues About Human Bacterial Infections
by Thea Singer

Northeastern professor Daniel Distel and his colleagues have discovered a dark slithering creature four feet long that dwells in the foul mud of a remote lagoon in the Philippines. They say studying the animal, a...

The Deep Unknown: Visualizing the Ocean’s Mysteries
by Lia Petronio

Northeastern’s Ocean Genome Legacy maintains a collection of marine DNA and tissue samples that is unlike anything else in the world.

Ocean Acidification May Be Good for Thriving Marine Snails
by Andy Coghlan

Tiny marine snails have challenged doomsday assumptions that ocean acidification driven by global warming will inevitably render the oceans sterile.

While there’s no doubt that many...

Robot Shellfish May Tell Us About Climate Change’s Impact on Marine Species
by Nathan Hurst

Out in a bed of mussels, off the Monterey coast in California in a space exposed at low tide, a handful of green LEDs blink, indicating the location of a cohort of robomussels.

Northeastern Divers Combed Cozumel’s Coral Reef for Exotic Species. Here’s What they Found, and Why it Matters
by Allie Nicodemo

A massive Nassau grouper, four species of black corals, and a spotted drum fish were among the aquatic treasures Northeastern divers found on their expedition to Cozumel, Mexico. The drum fish was an especially lucky discovery—drums are nocturnal feeders that rarely leave the protection of...