Skip to content

For updates about COVID-19 at Clark, please visit the Healthy Clark Dashboard.

Robert Johnston

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:

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

Grounded in nearly a century of applied research at Clark University, the George Perkins Marsh Institute studies the socioecological, institutional, and other systems through which humans interact with 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 these changes. We promote systems-based research that addresses some of the most pressing issues facing today’s world.

The institute’s activities cover three core themes: (1) Socioecological (or human-environment) Systems and Sustainability Science, (2) Earth System Science, and (3) Institutions and Human Development. Cross-cutting topics reflect contemporary challenges for which solutions require insights from these and other scientific perspectives. These include (a) Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation, (b) Local and Global Food Security, and (c) Sustainable and Resilient Communities. The study of risk, vulnerability and adaptation is another important focus, based in the pioneering work at the original Center for Technology, Environment, and Development (CENTED), now part of the institute.

The institute is one of the most productive hubs for research activity and funding at Clark University, regularly generating approximately half of all external research funds received by the University. Grants to institute researchers support work in such topics as changes in arctic sea ice; invasive species management; forest fires in Western U.S.; droughts in sub-Saharan Africa; ecosystem services; natural resource extraction; urban youth violence; and relationships between climate, land use, agriculture and human development. Recently funded projects address topics such as marine plastics; natural climate solutions; pollinator conservation; and links between urban housing and human health.

The George Perkins Marsh Institute makes a difference through advancements in basic and applied science, direct engagement with decision-makers, provision of learning opportunities for students, and communication with the public. We coordinate workshops, conferences, and seminars that bring together scientists, students, stakeholders, and policy-makers to address pressing challenges in human-environment interactions. We also host visiting scientists to promote cross-institutional collaborations. Institute researchers play important roles in national and international science and policy advisory bodies such as the National Academy of Sciences, as well as state and regional groups. We are also engaged in national and international research networks that connect scientists, decision-makers, and stakeholders.

The George Perkins Marsh Institute represents Clark University in its role as a recognized non-governmental observer organization with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In past years, the 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 Benefit Transfer of Environmental and Resource Values: A Guide for Researchers and Practitioners (2015).

The institute is also dedicated to the provision of research opportunities for Clark graduate and undergraduate students. Dozens of students participate in the institute’s externally funded research projects each year. Recent programs for student research include the Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) research program in Massachusetts and the Albert, Norma and Howard ’77 Geller Student Research Grants. 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. We are also home to the Humanitarian Response and Development Lab (HURDL) and the Center for the Study of Natural Resource Extraction and Society. We work closely with numerous departments and schools across Clark University, including the Graduate School of Geography, the Department of International Development, Community, and Environment, and the Department of Economics.

This website provides 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.


Robert J. Johnston, Director

Contact Information

George Perkins Marsh Institute

Office Location
  • Mailing Address:
    950 Main Street
    Worcester, MA 01610-1477
  • Visiting address:
    16 Claremont Street
    Worcester, MA 01610-1477
  • 1-508-751-4622
  • 1-508-751-4600 FAX