George Perkins Marsh Institute

Letter from the Director

Robert Johnston Welcome to the George Perkins Marsh Institute, Clark University's home for research studying the relationship between humans and the environment. The Institute supports interdisciplinary and collaborative research, education and outreach within a variety of research focus areas, and is home to approximately 65 research faculty, staff, and graduate students with appointments ranging from the humanities to the social and natural sciences. The Institute also provides administrative, academic and communications support to encourage effective and influential research.

The Marsh Institute seeks to coordinate resources from Clark University and elsewhere within a collaborative agenda to study human transformation of the environment and human response to this change. We take a broad view of interactions between humans and their environments, including relationships between natural, human and constructed systems. In keeping with the mission of Clark University to "Challenge Convention - Change our World," Institute activities emphasize innovative, interdisciplinary solutions to contemporary challenges such as climate change, energy sustainability, human welfare, and ecosystem health. Among the hallmarks of the Marsh Institute are large-scale, collaborative research efforts that challenge traditional disciplinary boundaries in search of novel perspectives and solutions. We also provide varied research opportunities for students and post-doctoral researchers. Student programs at Marsh range from endowed research awards for student-initiated research to large-scale projectspromoting student involvement and hands-on learning.

To achieve these goals, the Institute relies on funding from the University, government grants and contracts, support from individual and group donors, and partnerships with the private sector (NGOs and private companies). We currently maintain over $7 million in active grants and contracts. The Institutes five current areas of research focus include: (a) sustainability transitions and energy, (b) innovations in earth systems science, (c) human health, development and welfare, (d) risks, hazards and resilience, and (e) humans and ecosystems.

Work at the Institute is guided by conviction that research impact is enhanced by collaborations both in and outside of the academic community. The Institute's goals include a strengthening of relationships within the University as well as with partner organizations. Within Clark, for example, we are promoting new, joint initiatives with The Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise and Clark Labs for Cartographic Technologies and Geographic Analysis. We are also seeking to enhance the Institute's long-established ties with schools and departments including Geography, International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE), Economics, and Biology. Beyond Clark, we are engaged in efforts with numerous non-profit organizations, universities and government agencies. Our recent non-profit partners include the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Lucile Packard Foundation, the Massachusetts Ocean Partnership, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, the Nature Conservancy, and many others. Elsewhere on our website you will find descriptions of our ongoing research projects, research partners, and lists of affiliated researchers.

The Marsh Institute is dedicated to programs that encourage hands-on undergraduate and graduate student research. These include the Geller Student Research Awards for Projects Relating to Sustainability, together with many funded research projects that support student researchers. The Institute is also closely involved with the new the Liberal Education and Effective Practice (LEEP) program at Clark, and is working with others at the University to promote the success of this path-breaking initiative. Other programs coordinated through the Institute include the Polaris Project in the Siberian Arctic and the Human-Environment Regional Observatory-Central Massachusetts (HERO-CM) research program.

Each year brings new events and challenges. Institute researchers are now collaborating on a number of large-scale, multi-institutional research grant proposals that will soon be submitted to agencies such as Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the National Science Foundation. Recent successes have led to a major grant under National Science Foundation (NSF) macrosystems biology initiative, addressing the ecological homogenization of urban America, in which a Marsh Institute researcher (C. Polsky) is playing a major role. Other recent projects include work addressing albedo (reflectivity) trends related to land cover change with direct implications for global climate change (C. Williams), and a suite of related projects continuing the Institute's work on climate and ecological change in the Arctic, led by Assistant Professor Karen Frey. I am also personally overseeing an array of projects related to the valuation and management of ecosystem services, along with partners worldwide. These and many other projects are detailed in our annual progress reports. The Marsh Institute will also be continuing the successful George Perkins Marsh Institute - Jeanne X. Kasperson Library Seminar Series, with monthly seminars commencing October 6th, 2011. Among our many speakers this year are Jeffrey Bennett, Director of the Environmental Economics Research Hub at the Australian National University, and Clark's own James Gomes, Director of Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise. These and other events will be posted on our website, so check back often!

Your comments, suggestions and feedback are always welcome - so feel free to call or email at any time.

Thanks for visiting,

Robert J. Johnston
Director, George Perkins Marsh Institute