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:

Scroll   What is and ought to be our relationship with nature?   Scroll

Grounded in nearly a century of applied research at Clark University, the George Perkins Marsh Institute studies the natural, technological and socioeconomic systems that link humans and their surrounding 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. The Institute promotes collaborative, systems-based research that challenges traditional disciplinary boundaries to address some of the most pressing challenges facing human society. The Institute is home to more than fifty research faculty and staff, many of whom have joint appointments with other departments.

The Institute's research and outreach covers three core themes linked by cross-cutting topics. The primary themes that motivate our work include: (1) earth system science, (2) socioecological (or human-environment) systems and sustainability science, and (3) community development and urban-economic systems. Cross-cutting topics reflect areas of particular contemporary relevance that are studied through these scientific lenses. Recent cross-cutting topics include: (1) climate change adaptation and mitigation, and (2) urban systems and sustainability. The study of risk, vulnerability and adaptation is another important focus. Within these core areas, the Institute's work makes a difference through advancements in science, direct engagement with decision makers, provision of learning opportunities for students, and communication with the public. We promote the success of other departments, centers and institutes across Clark University which share our commitment to science in the public interest. We coordinate workshops, conferences and seminars that bring together scientists, students, stakeholders and policy makers to address pressing challenges in human/environment interactions. Institute researchers also play important roles in national and international science and policy advisory bodies such as the National Academy of Sciences and US EPA Science Advisory Board, as well as regional groups such as the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program Management Committee.

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. Grants to Institute researchers support work in such wide-ranging topics as adaptation to coastal hazards; climate change impacts; the global carbon cycle; invasive species, climate and forest fires; the value and management of aquatic ecosystems; resource extraction and human development; drought and water use; and urban youth violence. New projects initiated during 2014-15 address topics including the economics of coastal climate change and resilience, relationships between forest change and carbon emissions, the impacts of thinning ice cover in the Pacific/Arctic region, and urban youth violence in central Massachusetts. Institute researchers also recently received a major collaborative grant through the NSF Coastal Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (Coastal SEES) Program to study the socioecological aspects of coastal marsh sustainability. External support for these and other Institute activities comes from private donations, foundations, and grants from state and federal agencies. The Institute is placing increasing emphasis on international programs and collaborations.

The Institute is also dedicated to the provision of exceptional research opportunities for Clark graduate and undergraduate students. Dozens of graduate and undergraduate students participate in the Institute's externally funded research project each year. Dedicated programs for student research include the Polaris Projects in the Siberian Arctic; the Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) research program in central Massachusetts; the Albert, Norma and Howard '77 Geller Research Grants; and the NOAA Fellows program in coordination with the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. 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.

In past years, the George Perkins 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).

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. We work closely with numerous departments and institutes across Clark University, including the Graduate School of Geography, the Department of International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE), the Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise, and the Department of Economics.

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