George Perkins Marsh Institute


National Academy of Sciences Appoints Clark Geographer to International Arctic Group

Karen Frey in the Arctic

Karen E. Frey, associate professor in the Clark University Graduate School of Geography and research associate professor in the George Perkins Marsh Institute, has been appointed by the National Academy of Sciences to serve on the Marine Working Group of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC). Only two U.S. scientists were appointed to this prestigious group; Frey will serve at least one four-year term.

The IASC is a non-governmental, international scientific organization that encourages and facilitates collaboration on Arctic research. The IASC has five working groups (Atmosphere, Cryosphere, Marine, Social and Human, and Terrestrial); the United States can appoint up to two scientists to serve in each working group, with two additional delegates serving as team leaders. A complete list of appointees can be found online. More »

Balancing the Health Risks and Benefits of Seafood: How Does Available Guidance Affect Consumer Choices?

American Journal of Agricultural Economics 4/5/2017

Professor Robert Johnston co-authored this study, the abstract of which begins: "Seafood species vary in their health benefits (e.g., from omega-3 fatty acids) and risks (e.g., from methylmercury or polychlorobiphenyls). Reflecting these risks and benefits, multiple public and private organizations offer guidance to consumers on seafood consumption. The effect of this guidance is unknown; previous literature has been unable to disentangle the effects of messages with differing health information, provided by different sources, on demand for different types of seafood." More »

Anthony Bebbington Awarded 2017 Australian Laureate Fellowship


Professor Anthony Bebbington, Director of the Graduate School of Geography and Marsh Institute researcher, was recently awarded a $2.8 million Australian Laureate Fellowship from the Australian Research Council. The project entitled "Mining and Society in a Changing Environment: Pathways to Sustainability" will conduct a systematic comparative analysis of mining activities across Latin America, Australasia, and South-East Asia, drawing on political ecology, sustainability science, indigenous geography, and geographic information science.

Yuko Aoyama Publishes New Book on Collaborative Governance


Yuko Aoyama, Professor in the Graduate School of Geography and Marsh Institute researcher, with Balaji Parthasarathy of the International Institute of Information Technology, recently published the book The Rise of the Hybrid Domain: Collaborative Governance for Social Innovation, which explores possibilities for new governance structures that blend social and economic missions and advance the livelihoods of the poor in the Global South.

Geller Student Fellowships Awarded to Four Graduate Students

The Albert, Norma and Howard '77 Geller Endowed Research Awards support student-initiated research projects that advance our understanding of natural resource and environmental sustainability and develop practical improvements that move society towards more sustainable outcomes. Remembering his own experience as an activist student researcher at Clark, Dr. Howard Geller (Science, Technology, and Society '77) hopes to support other Clark undergraduate and graduate students through these annual awards.

Four student projects were funded in 2017:

  • Yifan Cai, "Variegated Green Capitalism and the Decentralized Developmental State: A Case Study on the Low-speed Electric Vehicle (LSEV) Industry in Shandong, China."
  • Janae Davis, "Toward a Framework for Decolonizing Integrated Conservation and Development Projects at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park."
  • Carlos Dobler-Morales, "Integrating Remote Sensing with Local Perceptions to Characterize Droughts in Rural Mexico."
  • Alex Moulton, "Managing resources in Jamaica's Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park."

View the detailed project descriptions on the Geller Research Fellowship page.

Clark Researcher Explores the Impact of Arctic Melt

Melishia Santiago records data in a lab at Clark University

Clark University doctoral candidate Melishia Santiago grew up with palm trees and warm weather near sunny Atlantic beaches in Florida and Puerto Rico before coming north to Massachusetts for college. Now, she spends her time thinking about ice, specifically how climate change impacts sea-ice extent in the western Arctic Ocean. More »

Navigating Tradeoffs between Pest Suppression and Pollinator Conservation


Originally introduced in the mid-1990s, neonicotinoid insecticides ('neonics') experienced an exponential rise in use over the past two decades and are now the most widely used insecticides in the world. Unfortunately, the attributes that make neonics versatile and powerful pest management tools also make non-targeted insects vulnerable to their effects. Specifically, neonics have been implicated as a factor in sudden die-offs of managed honeybee hives and long term declines in native bee populations. Thus, farmers growing pollinator-dependent crops, which represents a large fraction of all fruits and vegetables, are confronted with a potential tradeoff between two competing aspects of crop production: effective pest suppression and successful pollination. Marsh Institute Assistant Director Dana Bauer and collaborators from Purdue University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, and the University of New Hampshire received $3.6 million from the US Department of Agriculture for a 5-year interdisciplinary project that will develop holistic pest-pollinator joint management regimes that are effective, profitable, and sustainable. The project will: identify insecticide management strategies that simultaneously optimize pest suppression while minimizing non-target exposure to pollinators; determine the consequences of neonic exposure for honey and wild bee health; and assess the ecological and socioeconomic tradeoffs among pollinators, pests, crop yield, and farm profitability resulting from alternative pest management regimes. Bauer will lead the economic analysis of grower preferences, profitability, and decision-making.

Generating Knowledge for Climate Information Services Design and Implementation

Climate information services (CIS) involve the production and use of climate knowledge in climate-smart decisions, planning, and policy-making. Easily accessible, timely, and relevant scientific information can help society cope with current climate variability and limit the economic and social damage caused by climate-related disturbances. A group of Marsh Institute researchers, including Edward Carr, Director of IDCE, HURDL (Humanitarian Response and Development Lab) Research Scientist Sheila Onzere, and Marsh Research Scientist Robert Goble, was awarded just under $400k in funding from USAID and Mercy Corps to explore ways to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of future investments in Climate Information Services (CIS) delivery, and ultimately increase the number of users of CIS who will benefit through livelihood practices. Using literature reviews, analyses of existing CIS systems, and a pilot evaluation program using the HURDL Livelihoods as Intimate Government (LIG) approach, the project team seeks to (1) increase understanding of, and access to, knowledge on the effectiveness of current CIS programming, (2) expand the current understanding of how CIS systems function in the context of broader social, cultural, and institutional systems within which they operate, (3) increase evidence on the degree of effectiveness of CIS on livelihoods, and (4) escalate dissemination and uptake of new knowledge.

Reducing Gang Violence in Worcester's Eastside Neighborhoods

Worcester, Massachusetts--the second largest city in New England with a population of 183,000--exhibits many established risk factors for youth and gang violence. Laurie Ross, Professor of IDCE and Marsh Institute researcher, received new grant funding from the City of Worcester to develop and manage a data tracking system and share best-practice research that will help reduce gang violence and prevent gang initiation among high-risk youth ages 12-17 in Worcester's Eastside neighborhoods. By focusing on Worcester's Eastside neighborhoods and on youth ages 12-17, this project addresses a major geographical, age, and programmatic gap identified in Worcester's Youth Violence Prevention Initiative--which was the result of a comprehensive community gang assessment and citywide strategic planning process. The project will bolster Worcester's Comprehensive Gang Model to direct outreach workers and case management to youth who live on the city's Eastside.

Examining the Homogenization of American Residential Landscapes

An apparent, but untested result of changes to the urban landscape is the homogenization of cities, such that neighborhoods in very different parts of the country increasingly exhibit similar patterns in their road systems, residential lots, commercial sites, and aquatic areas; that is, cities have now become more similar to each other than to the native ecosystems that they replaced. Marsh Institute researcher and Associate Professor of Geography, Rinku Roy Chowdhury, with collaborators at City University of New York and eight other institutions, received funding from the National Science Foundation to examine the homogenization of American residential landscapes and investigate factors that contribute to stability or changes in those landscapes. The aim is to determine how factors that effect change--such as shifts in human demographics, desires for biodiversity and water conservation, regulations that govern water use and quality, and dispersal of organisms--will interact with factors that contribute to stability such as social norms, property values, neighborhood and city covenants and laws, and commercial interests. The project will determine ecological implications of alternative futures for the assembly of ecological communities, ecosystem function, and responses to environmental change and disturbance at parcel (ecosystem), landscape (city), regional (Metropolitan Statistical Area), and continental scales. Analyses will take place across six U.S. cities (Boston, Baltimore, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix, and Los Angeles).

Facilitating Broader Use of NASA's Carbon Monitoring System

From its inception, the NASA Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) has largely been organized around two activities: observation-based mapping of biomass and model-based estimation of carbon flux. Although there has been significant progress in both biomass and flux activities at various scales, several challenges hinder the use of biomass products to inform flux modeling. Challenges include biomass maps that are often static or local scale, uncertainties that are difficult to render and incorporate into models, and map products that are not designed with the needs and format standards of modelers in mind. To help address these challenges, Marsh researcher and Associate Professor of Geography, Chris Williams, along with colleagues at Oregon State University, received funding from NASA to develop new tools that will facilitate broader use of CMS data products by: (a) converting static maps of above ground biomass and land cover to dynamic yearly maps, and (b) collaborating with modelers and stakeholders to build a convenient, easy-to-use interface to the dynamic map results. This set of tools will add significant value to the CMS program by thoughtfully and deliberately connecting the results from various disparate projects to each other and to modeling and accounting frameworks that provide a more integrated view of carbon dynamics.

Climate, Not Bark Beetle Damage, to Blame for Increased Wildfire Risk

Landscape of dead trees next to water, with mountains in background

For the first time, new research has compared the impact of bark beetle outbreaks versus climate on the occurrence of large wildfires across the entire western United States. The Clark University study points to climate, not beetles, as the main culprit, suggesting new approaches to managing forests and preventing wildfires. More »

Ecosystems Slow the Rate of Rising CO2 Concentration

Landscape of trees in Australia

The rate at which carbon dioxide is accumulating in the atmosphere has plateaued in recent years because terrestrial ecosystems are grabbing more carbon from the air than in previous decades, according to a new multi-institutional study published online in the journal Nature Communications. Christopher A. Williams, associate professor of geography at Clark University, is a co-author on the article. More »

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. More »