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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Urban Harbors Institute Helps Engage Community in Preserving Environment

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Being right on the water doesn’t just give UMass Boston a beautiful view, it also give the university a vested interested in the management of regional costal waterfront. The Urban Harbors Institute, one of more than 30 research institutions on UMass Boston campus, is dedicated to just that interest.

Located on the 11th floor of Healy Library, the institute works to ensure that water and coastal resources are utilized in such a way that the environmental quality of these resources is not compromised. Much of that effort involves working to shape the public policy that governs the responsible use of natural resources.

Working in close conjunction with UMass Boston facility and graduate programs, as well as scientists throughout the area, The Urban Harbors Institute collects the data needed to develop social and environmental policy planning. Director Jack Wiggin described a current project concerning sanitation discharge from private and commercial boats on Boston Harbor.

“There’s a law that says you could designate a body of water to be a ‘no discharge area’ if you go through a certain procedure,” he said. “So we’re asked to go through that procedure. We have a management goal not to allow boats to discharge into this body of water, but in order to do that you need to know certain things; you need to know the quality of the water you’re dealing with, how many boats there are, how many pump outs exist that those boats can use. We go and we gather all of that data, put it together to make the case for making that management decision.”

Community engagement is another key focus of The Urban Harbors Institute. “We get the community involved in being good stewards of the environment,” Kristin Mallek, a researcher at the Urban Harbor Institute, said.

Recently, it helped organize the 20th annual Massachusetts COASTSWEEP, a two-month initiative to clean up beaches that involved about 90 cleanup sites and 3,500 participants. The institute also hosts educational lectures and presentations within the community.

“Once we develop an area of expertise on something, we often get involved in various public outreach activities on that topic area,” Wiggin said.

The Urban Harbors Institute works with the UMass Boston MASSPIRG and Sustainability clubs to help those student organizations plan and develop their own environmental initiatives. The institute’s knowledgeable staff can be a valuable source for students looking for research information, connections to outside resources, or just interested in the environmental, economic, and societal impacts of public policy.

For more information on current and upcoming projects, visit The Urban Harbors Institute at http://www.uhi.umb.edu/index.htm.