George Perkins Marsh Institute

Welcome to the Marsh Institute

The George Perkins Marsh Institute (GPMI) at Clark University is dedicated to research on one of the most fundamental questions confronting humankind:

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Grounded in nearly a century of applied research at Clark University, the George Perkins Marsh Institute advances scientific understanding of the ways in which humans influence--and are influenced by--our surrounding natural, technological and socioeconomic environments. Working within a collaborative agenda, the Institute coordinates resources from Clark University and elsewhere to study human transformation of the environment and responses to this change. Among the hallmarks of the Institute are collaborative research efforts that challenge traditional disciplinary boundaries in search of novel approaches and solutions, along with systems-based perspectives to wicked challenges such as climate change and human development. The Institute is home to more than 50 research faculty and staff, many of whom have joint appointments with other departments.

Focal areas of the Marsh Institute include (1) earth system science; (2) socio-ecological and sustainability science; and (3) human development, welfare and urban/economic systems. The study of risk, vulnerability and adaptation is another central focus. External support for Institute activities comes from private donations, foundations, and grants from state and federal agencies. The Institute is one of the most productive and active hubs for research activity and funding at Clark University, regularly generating over one-third of external research funds received by the University as a whole. The Institute also coordinates workshops, conferences and seminars that bring together scientists, students, stakeholders and policymakers to address pressing challenges in human/environment interactions.

The Institute is home to myriad initiatives that provide undergraduate and graduate students with unique hands-on research experiences. These include the Polaris Projects in the Siberian Arctic and the Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) research program in central Massachusetts, the Albert, Norma and Howard '77 Geller Research Grants, and the new NOAA Fellows program. Building on programs such as these, the Institute plays an important role in the Liberal Education and Effective Practice (LEEP) initiative at Clark, providing expertise as well as opportunities for student research within our many communities of effective practice.

Among the facilities, offices and centers that comprise the Institute is the Jeanne X. Kasperson Research Library, whose holdings include one of the most extensive research collections in North America on risks, hazards and global environmental change. The Institute also provides administrative support for the Institute for Energy and Sustainability (IES). The Institute works closely with numerous departments and institutes across Clark University, including the School of Geography; the Department of International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE); The Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise; and the Department of Economics.

Each year brings new events and opportunities. During 2012-13 Institute researchers collaborated on a number of large multi-institutional research grant proposals submitted to agencies such as the National Science Foundation. The Institute has placed increasing emphasis on climate change vulnerability and adaptation, including multiple projects addressing implications for water conservation, land use and coastal management. Ongoing long-term projects address such issues as ecological change in the Arctic and relationships between wildfires and pine beetles. The Institute is also engaged in an array of projects in such diverse fields as the valuation of ecosystem services, enterprise development in Africa, and relationships between resource extraction and human development in South America. Building on these and other efforts, the Institute is placing increasing emphasis on international programs and collaborations. These and other initiatives are outlined in the Institute's recently-completed strategic plan, intended to guide the Institute's activities through 2018.

In past years, the Marsh Institute played a leading role in developing the Core Project on Global Land-Use/Cover Change (LUCC) for the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme and the International Human Dimensions Programme, and assisted the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in developing the analytical capacities to address environmental changes in general. Books resulting from Marsh Institute activities include The Earth as Transformed by Human Action (1990), Regions at Risk: Comparisons of Threatened Environments (1995), and more recently Economic Analysis for Ecosystem-Based Management: Applications to Marine and Coastal Environments (2010).

This website provides links and information regarding the many programs and initiatives supported by the Institute, as well as announcements of seminars and other events. We welcome any input or comments; please contact the Institute Director, Robert J. Johnston.


George Perkins Marsh Institute - Clark University
Visiting address: 16 Claremont Street, Worcester, MA 01610-1477
Mailing address: 950 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01610-1477
Phone: +1.508.751.4622
Fax: +1.508.751.4600