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Seminal conference to explore urban coastal sustainability

The majority of the world’s cities lie on a shoreline, and by 2020, two-thirds of all Americans are expected to reside in coastal cities. From San Francisco to Boston to Hong Kong, humans are living in ever-closer quarters with the marine species that set up shop here eons ago.

“We need to understand the interface between the human and natural environment and determine ways to solve problems for both,” said Brian Helmuth, a Northeastern professor of public policy and environmental science.

To address those issues, Helmuth and Geoff Trussell, chair of the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences and director of the Marine Science Center, are organizing the Sustaining Coastal Cities Conference. The conference will be hosted by the College of Science this spring and is the first of its kind, focusing on key issues in urban coastal sustainability.

The event will bring together four of the country’s top research scientists to address the critical role and fragile state of marine ecosystems. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a world-renowned expert on coral reefs from the University of Queensland in Australia, will speak on predicting and preventing reef decline. Jeremy Jackson of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif., will examine worldwide trends and bring with him more than four decades of expertise in science-based policy recommendations. Larry Crowder, a biology professor at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, and Steve Gaines, a rocky shore ecologist and dean of the University of California Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, will also make presentations.

Following the lectures, Helmuth and Trussell will join the guests for a panel discussion on the impact of climate change on urban coastal environments. Richard Harris, a science correspondent at National Public Radio, will moderate the discussion.

The conference will also serve to announce the university’s Urban Coastal Sustainability Initiative, which will be directed by Trussell. While the initiative began at the Marine Science Center in the College of Science, it has is expanded to include new faculty in the College of Engineering and College of Social Science and Humanities, with more expected in future.

“This conference is yet another demonstration of Northeastern University’s commitment to critically important sustainability issues,” Trussel said. “We are honored to have these global leaders joining us for this event and excited about the major contributions our initiative will make to science, policy, and society.”

The event will take place on May 23 from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Curry Student Center Ballroom. Participants can register on the College of Science’s website.