George Perkins Marsh Institute


Call for Student Applications: The 2016-17 Albert, Norma and Howard Geller '77 Endowed Research Awards for Projects Relating to Sustainability

The George Perkins Marsh Institute announces the Geller Student Research Award Competition for 2016-17. The awards were established by the family of Dr. Howard Geller '77. Geller Student Research Awards are intended to support student-initiated research projects that advance our understanding of sustainability in the human use of resources and the environment. Both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible for awards. We anticipate making 3-4 awards in amounts ranging from $1,001 to $2,500, and several smaller grants, up to $1,000. It is the intention of the committee to award at least one-third of regular and small awards to undergraduate projects, again subject to the number and quality of applications received. Applications must be submitted by students. The deadline for applications is October 21, 2016 at 4:30 pm, EST. Click here for details.

Questions should be directed to Dana Marie Bauer, Assistant Director of the George Perkins Marsh Institute.

Postdoctoral Researcher -- Ecosystem Service Valuation; Stated and Stated/Revealed Preference Methods

The George Perkins Marsh Institute at Clark University seeks a Postdoctoral Researcher in environmental economics, with an emphasis in ecosystem service valuation, stated and stated/revealed preference methods, and benefit transfer to join a vibrant and growing interdisciplinary research team. Click here for details.

Seminar Series 2016-17 Academic Year

The George Perkins Marsh Institute and Jeanne X. Kasperson Research Library announce the 2016-17 Academic Year Seminar Series. Seminars will present cutting-edge research on human/environment interactions taking place at Clark University and are designed to catalyze discussions regarding future research possibilities. Seminars are open to all in the Clark community. The format is a 40-45 minute presentation followed by 15-20 minutes of questions and discussion. Interaction with the speaker is encouraged. Light refreshments will be provided. Please feel free to bring your own brown-bag lunch if desired. The third seminar of the series is as follows:


Asa Rennermalm, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Rutgers University

"Is the Greenland Ice Sheet Melting Away?"
Debra I. and Jeffrey A. Geller Endowed Lecture, co-Sponsored with the Graduate School of Geography Colloquium Series

Thursday, October 27, 2016
12:15 – 1:15 pm
University Center, Grace Conference Room

View our full listing of Marsh Institute seminars »

Estimating the Value of Water Quality Improvements

The recent drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan is an extreme example of what can go wrong when people do not understand the value of clean waterways. It reinforces the need to better understand the costs and benefits of protecting the environment, including the quality of water in rivers and streams. Yet water quality provides many benefits beyond those associated with drinking water; it also provides social benefits through effects on wildlife, recreation, aesthetics, and other outcomes that affect people's lives. As part of a newly awarded $800,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), environmental economist and Marsh Institute Director Robert Johnston is leading an interdisciplinary team of researchers to develop new methods to quantify the value of water quality improvements to the public, focusing on rivers and streams in the Northeast US. The award is part of a US EPA program that seeks to improve our understanding of the value of water quality improvements across the US, and is one of only six awards made nationwide.

Linking Gender Equity to Forest Outcomes

Increasing evidence indicates a link between gender equality and enhanced environmental outcomes. At the same time, gender-based violence emerges as a means by which households and communities discipline women and, as a result, shape women's participation in forest governance. Different levels of participation may lead to differences in forest outcomes; however, this question remains unanswered. A group of Marsh Institute researchers, led by Edward Carr, Director of Clark's International Development, Community, and Environment (IDCE) Department, was awarded funding from the World Resources Institute's Gender Initiative to explore the connection between different levels of women's participation in forest governance and ultimate forest outcomes. The project team, which also includes Sheila Onzere (Humanitarian Response Development Lab), Denise Humphreys Bebbington (IDCE), and Cynthia Caron (IDCE), will combine remotely sensed forest cover data with on the ground ethnographic research in case study communities to improve our understanding of the existence of such links.

Assessing the Effect of Extractive Industries on Forest Livelihoods

Large-scale infrastructure and extractive industry projects have attracted significant private and public investment, with direct and indirect synergies between them. However, while the effect of roads on deforestation has been widely studied, the extent to which extractive industry affects forest cover and forest-dependent livelihoods is less clear. Although the actual footprint of operations is modest in absolute terms, the footprint of pollutant-based externalities can be far larger. In addition, the drivers of these different processes are multiple and complex. Marsh Institute researchers Anthony Bebbington (Geography), Denise Humphreys Bebbington (IDCE), and John Rogan (Geography) received funding from the Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA) to assess the effect of extractive industries on deforestation and related impacts in three regions: Brazil, Mexico/Central America, and Indonesia with the goal of identifying feasible strategies for CLUA.

Assessing the Dynamics of Coastal Ecosystems

The Plum Island Ecosystems (PIE) Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site is developing a predictive understanding of the response of a linked watershed-marsh-estuarine system in northeastern Massachusetts to rapid environmental change. Over the last 30 years, surface seawater temperatures in the adjacent Gulf of Maine have risen at three times the global average, rates of sea-level rise have accelerated, and precipitation has increased. Coupled with these changes in climate and sea level are substantial changes within the rapidly urbanizing watersheds that influence water, sediment, and nutrient delivery to the marsh and estuary. Robert Gilmore Pontius, Jr., Marsh Institute researcher and Professor in the Graduate School of Geography, was awarded $408,000 for his contribution to this large-scale, multi-institutional, interdisciplinary project that will assess how internal feedbacks within the marsh-estuary ecosystem influence the response of geomorphology, biogeochemistry, and food webs to three major drivers: climate, sea-level rise, and human alteration of the watershed.


Professor Presents Findings on 'Climate-smart' Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa


President Obama calls climate change "the greatest threat to future generations." Yet Americans have not responded to his call to action, he acknowledged recently, because climate change "is not an instantaneous catastrophic event. It's a slow-moving issue that, on a day-to-day basis, people don't experience and don't see." More »


The Surprising Science of Wildfires and Tree-Killing Beetles

News Deeply 9/14/2016

"SO FAR THIS year 4,636 wildfires in California have burned more than 200,000 acres. That's more fires than this time last year and more fires than the five-year average. In fact, in the last few decades, the number of large fires are on the rise across the Western United States and the length of the fire season continues to expand. ... Research published by Veblen and Clark University's Dominik Kulakowski in 2015 found that 'the best available science indicates that outbreaks of bark beetles do not increase the risk of high-severity fires in lodgepole pine and spruce-fir forests of the Rocky Mountains.' It's possible that in some cases the loss of needles would reduce the risk of crown fires, which spread from the canopy of trees and are associated with severe fires." More »

Kate Markham

Grad Student Researches Small-scale Gold-mining's Impact on Biodiversity in Peru

Madre de Dios, in the northern Amazon region of Peru, has been hard hit by the devastating environmental effects of gold-mining. "Whole areas have been transformed into veritable deserts and wastelands," The Guardian reported recently. More »


Spotted Owls vs. Barred Owls: Clark Ethicist Helps Guide Debate on Protecting Species

The Pacific Northwest is in the middle of "Owl Wars," in which the possible extinction of the northern spotted owl is being weighed against the intrusion of another -- the barred owl. After a decade of planning, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has concluded that the only way to save the spotted owl from extinction is to kill barred owls, a move that is ethically troubling for bird and nature lovers everywhere. More »

High Country News: 'California Plans to Log its Drought-killed Trees'

Over the past four years, California has lost more than 66 million trees due to drought, and now the state is planning to log dead trees to reduce the risk of devastating wildfires, according to High Country News (HCN), a nonprofit, independent media organization covering news of the American West. But the planned logging already is proving controversial. More »


Clark's CDP Program Partners with Worcester on Food Economy, Families

The professors and students in Clark's Community Development and Planning (CDP) program learn from and work alongside members of the very community they want to transform. Their research not only pursues solutions to problems besetting urban neighborhoods, but also helps governments and nonprofits aspire to a more socially just world. More »

The 2015-16 Albert, Norma and Howard Geller '77 Endowed Research Awards for projects relating to sustainability

The History of the Albert, Norma and Howard '77 Geller Endowed Research Awards: The Geller Student Research Awards were established by the family of Dr. Howard Geller. Howard graduated from Clark in 1977 with a degree in Physics and in Science, Technology and Society (now Environmental Science and Policy). He earned graduate degrees at Princeton and the University of Sao Paolo an became the first executive director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). After twenty years of accomplishments at ACEEE, including contributions to the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987 and the Energy Policy Act of 1992, he left ACEEE to found and direct the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) in 2001. Remembering his own experience as an activist student researcher at Clark, through these annual awards Howard hopes to support other Clark students as they combine research with action that moves society toward sustainability.

Below is the list of students who received the research award*:

  • Katherine Markham, "Modeling faunal vulnerability to artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Madre de Dios, Peru."
  • Kristen Shake, "(Un)frozen boundaries: Examining the role of sea ice in the socio-legal dynamics of the Bering Sea snow crab fisher."
  • Dylan Harris, "Re-politicizing global climate change: Stories from high-mountain communities in Nepal and Bolivia."
  • Bernadette Arakwiye, "Monitoring forest loss and degradation to evaluate sustainable forest restoration priorities in the Gishwati-Mukura National Park, Rwanda."
  • Wenjing Jiang, "Understanding contemporary agrarian transformation in China: Ongoing transfer of cropland user rights in a reform era."

*Awardees were selected by a panel of Clark University faculty representing multiple departments. The selection process was overseen by the George Perkins Marsh Institute. For additional details contact Dana Marie Bauer, Assistant Director of the George Perkins Marsh Institute.