Coastal Research in Environmental Science and Technology

Summer Research Internships in Coastal Systems

Faculty Bios

 

Dr. Mark Borelli

Dr. Jarrett Byrnes

Dr. Jessica Carilli

Dr. Robert Chen

Dr. Alan Christian

Dr. Ellen Douglas

Dr. ZhongPing Lee

Dr. Jose Martinez-Reyes

Dr. Georgia Mavromatti

Dr. Helen Poynton

Dr. William Robinson

Dr. Randi Rotjan

Dr. Michael Shiaris

Dr. Michael Tlusty

Dr. Juanita Urban-Rich

Dr. Alan Wiig

 

FACULTY RESEARCH INTERESTS

 

Dr. Mark Borelli

Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, mborrelli@coastalstudies.org

Dr. Borrelli’s research interests include coastal sedimentary processes in general and understanding how storms, sea level rise and anthropogenic impacts affect the coast in particular. Recent and ongoing research includes: mapping the seafloor in shallow coastal waters, developing transdisciplinary benthic habitat maps, studying bedforms and sediment transport in the nearshore, collecting high, spatial and temporal resolution beach profiles, understanding the morphodynamics of tidal inlets and developing a new method to quantify change in salt marshes. 

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Dr. Jarrett Byrnes

Biology, jarrett.byrnes@umb.edu

Dr. Byrnes research focuses on the causes and consequences of complexity in nature. Dr. Byrnes is interested in how humans alter the diversity and interconnectedness of life on earth. Understanding how these changes alter the services that nature provides is a critical need as we watch ecosystem after ecosystem collapse. Dr. Byrnes studies these questions in the ocean because, let's face it, the sheer number and diversity of species in the oceans is astounding. In particular, undergraduates participating in research in the Byrnes lab will focus either on 1) drivers variation in ecological processes in New England salt marshes or 2) the links between community structure and ecosystem function in New England kelp forests (AAUS or equivalent certification required). 

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Dr. Jessica Carilli

School For the Environment, jessica.carilli@umb.edu

Dr. Jessica Carilli’s research lab is focused on understanding how human activities, both at local (e.g. runoff) and global (e.g. climate change) scales, alter coastal physical environmental properties, and how organisms respond to these changes. Students in the Carilli lab receive training in a range of analytical techniques and applications, as well as career skills including reading scientific papers, visualizing and interpreting data, and communicating results. The Carilli lab primarily works on tropical coral reef ecosystems, but is also involved in work with the local cold-water coral Astrangia poculata. Examples of projects in the Carilli lab include 1) reconstructing century-scale changes in sediment runoff onto coral reefs in St. John, USVI using skeletal metal/Ca ratios, 2) understanding how heat stress and shipwreck-based iron enrichment affects coral health, 3) tracking changes in coral nutritional status through intense bleaching events using lipids and stable isotopes, and 4) understanding how microplastics can be a vector for adsorbed pollutants into coral tissues. Dr. Carilli has mentored 5 graduate students, 3 honors students, and 13 undergraduate students, many of whom are in underrepresented groups. 

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Dr. Robert Chen
School for the Environment, bob.chen@umb.edu

Dr. Robert Chen’s research interests include 1) identification of sources and transformations of colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) in the ocean, 2) real-time measurements of physical, chemical and biological parameters in near-shore coastal environments and watersheds with wireless sensor networks, 3) factors controlling water quality in coastal oceans, 4) carbon cycling in coastal ecosystems, and 5) development of effective education and outreach practices to integrate research and education. Undergraduate research opportunities exist for developing new instruments, ocean and watershed field work, chemical analysis with modern instrumentation, and educational research.

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Dr. Alan Christian
School for the Environment, alan.christian@umb.edu

Dr. Alan Christian’s (PI) research lab is interested in understanding fundamental, restoration, and conservations questions regarding the ecology of coastal watersheds ranging from population genetics, to population, community, and ecosystem ecology, to watershed scale characteristics. Since arriving at UMass Boston in 2009, his research has focused on linked coastal watersheds and restoration ecology. Students working in his research lab receive training in field and laboratory techniques associated with freshwater ecology. Research projects in his lab range from 1) molecular ecology using DNA sequencing and microsatellite analysis of freshwater organisms related to restoration activities; 2) assemblage and community compositional, structural, and functional diversity of natural and restored ecosystems, 3) food web and trophic analysis of aquatic organisms; 4) ecological stoichiometry and nutrient recycling in aquatic organisms; and 5) reach, buffer, and sub-watershed habitat and land use land cover characteristics influence aquatic communities and ecosystem processes.

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Dr. Ellen Douglas
School for the Environment, ellen.douglas@umb.edu

Dr. Ellen Douglas is a hydrologist and engineer with broad expertise in the analysis of water-related issues. Her research interests include evaluating the impacts of climate change on New England hydrology, assessing the vulnerability of coastal communities to flooding, improving methods for sustainable water resource management and monitoring the performance of river restoration through dam removal. Dr. Douglas has played a key role in helping the City of Boston and surrounding coastal communities assess their vulnerability to climate change and develop adaptation strategies to reduce these vulnerabilities. Dr. Douglas has authored or co-authored 26 peer-reviewed publications, four book chapters, and numerous technical reports. She is a contributing author for the 2013 U.S. National Climate Assessment and the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report.  She is a co-author of “Preparing for the Rising Tide”, a report on climate change vulnerability and adaptation options for Boston sponsored by The Boston Harbor Association.  Dr. Douglas was awarded a 2013-14 Fulbright Scholarship to work in Australia with the CSIRO on the Water Values and Benefits project. She has mentored 3 PhD students and 12 Masters students since 2006 and has closely advised 10 undergraduates working on honors theses and independent study projects.

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Dr. Zhong Ping Lee

School for the Environment, ZhongPing.Lee@umb.edu

Dr. Zhongping Lee's (PI) research focuses on the interaction between light and the environment, and, in particular, use the appearance of light (spectrum of water color) to de-code water properties from a remote sensing platform. Students working in his research lab receive broad training in field and laboratory techniques associated with ocean optics and ocean color remote sensing. Research projects in his lab range from 1) simulation and understanding of radiative transfer in natural aquatic environment; 2) contributions and characteristics of various constituents to the optical properties; 3) development of remote sensing algorithms ; and 4) application of remote sensing products for the study of coastal environment. 

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Dr. Jose Martinez-Reyes

Athropology Department, jose.martinez-reyes@umb.edu

Dr. Jose Martinez-Reyes research focuses on human-environmental relations and natural resource management from an anthropological perspective. Students working in his research document ethnographically the ways that people engage, perceive, and create meanings and systems of knowledge about the environment and how that engagement is influenced by wider networks of relations and political economy His work entails examining how the management of coastal and terrestrial resources are negotiated by locals, non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—both local and global—and the State as well as analyzing alternatives to development and conservation projects. His students have worked assessing the effectiveness of co-management as a strategy to manage natural forest resources in Puerto Rico. This project also evaluated the social effectiveness of reforestation programs in these communities as well as how local populations are included or excluded from participating in the development process and conservation efforts.  A second groups of students was trained in ethnographic methods in a Mayan community in Quintana Roo, Mexico to document changes in agroforestry practices as a consequence of climate change.

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Dr. Georgia Mavrommati

School for the Environment, georgia.mavrommati@umb.edu

Dr. Georgia Mavrommati’s research focuses on the interface of the economy with the environment. The dependency of socioeconomic process on ecosystems and the provision of society with ecosystem services attracts her main interest.  Community engagement in environmental decision-making and building social knowledge are integral parts of her research.The distinctive characteristic of her approach is the pursuit of essential transdisciplinarity by collaborating with scientists from different disciplines (e.g. decision scientists, aquatic ecologists, climate scientists) to better understand social-ecological systems and value ecosystem services provided at the watershed level.  Her research includes: (i) system dynamics modelling with stakeholder assistance to couple human and ecological systems and identify sustainable pathways of development and; (ii) ecosystem services valuation by employing discoursed based methods where sustainability considerations are incorporated and community engagement is ensured.

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Dr. Helen Poynton
School for the Environment, helen.poynton@umb.edu

Dr. Helen Poynton’s molecular ecology and molecular ecotoxicology research focuses on applying genomics to better understand sub-lethal effects of environmental pollutants and uncover molecular biomarkers that can be used to detect environmental pollutants and understand their bioavailability. Her focus areas include: 1) Developing molecular biomarkers as detection tools for emerging contaminants including nanoparticles and use them to understand the bioavailability of nanoparticles in environmental matrices and 2) Using genomics to understand the molecular pathways affected by environmental pollutants including metals, pharmaceuticals, nanoparticles, and pesticides and relate them to whole organism or population level effects. Since arriving at UMass Boston in fall of 2010, Dr. Poynton has developed a strong, externally funded research program, which actively integrates undergraduate students into funded projects.  

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Dr. William Robinson
School for the Environment, william.robinson@umb.edu

Dr. William Robinson’s research addresses functional mechanisms in aquatic toxicology, particularly those processes involved in metal uptake, depuration, sequestration and internal transport. This work focuses on two groups of marine organisms - bivalve molluscs (mussels and clams) and tunicates (ascidians). His research group is investigating several mechanisms (physiological, biochemical and molecular) that bivalve molluscs and tunicates utilize in response to specific metals. Ongoing and past studies have addressed metal bioavailability, detoxification and the circulatory transport of metal ion complexes in both bivalves and tunicates. Current work also examines the uptake and internal sequestering of endocrine disrupting chemicals and the affect that ocean acidification will have on marine mussels.   

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Dr. Randi Rotjan

New England Aquarium, rrotjan@neaq.org

Dr. Randi Rotjan’s research at the New England Aquarium focuses on various ecological processes governing marine ecosystem structuring. Many of these processes touch on areas of symbiosis, behavioral ecology, and conservation biology. Dr. Rotjan research group uses exploratory observations combined with manipulative experiments to discover the patterns and uncover the mechanisms of symbiosis in the context of organismal response to environmental change. Her research distills to 4 main themes: 1) Symbioses in key ecosystem engineers and foundation species including tropical corals and the local temperate coral, Astrangia poculata 2) Fish-coral interactions on tropical reef; 3) Behavioral ecology of marine organism; and 4) Conservation ecology in in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area.

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Dr. Michael Shiaris

Biology Department, michael.shiaris@umb.edu

Dr. Michael Shiaris’ (PI) research lab is interested in understanding fundamental and applied aspects of bacterial diversity in the environment.  The current focus of research his laboratory is the microbial ecology and diversity of CRISPR systems in the bacterial genus Enterococcus. He has additionally focused on plant rhizosphere-bacterial interactions, the distribution of Enterococcus, Vibrio and other potential pathogens in the environment, as well as the oyster microbiome and in developing better methods for microbial source tracking in coastal beaches. Numerous undergraduate students, including many from underrepresented groups, have participated in research projects in the Shiaris lab through independent study, REU programs in CREST and Biology, NIH IMSD, NIH Bridges to Baccalaureate, and the Robert McNair Program.

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Dr. Michael Tlusty

New England Aquarium, mtlusty@neaq.org

Dr. Michael Tlusty (PI) works to increase the sustainability of the blue planet by linking science, technology, and innovation to transform the world's aquaculture systems. He uses aquatic animal science to provide solutions to mitigate global change and human-induced impacts in the areas of food production, aquariums, and the wildlife trade. Students working in his research lab receive broad training in practical research and hatchery methods in animal production, and also on mining and interpreting large datasets. Research projects in his lab range from 1) understanding host susceptibility in the onset of shell disease in American lobsters ; 2) food and growth requirements of larval fish; 3) the international trade in aquatic wildlife; and 4) ecological impacts of fisheries and aquaculture products and how that influences sustainability portfolios.  Dr Tlusty has been at the New England Aquarium since 1999, and in that time, he has mentored 5 graduate students, and through the internship program at the Aquarium, has mentored over 100 undergraduate students, of which approximately 20% were in underrepresented / underserved programs.

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Dr. Juanita Urban-Rich
School for the Environment, Juanita.urban-rich@umb.edu

Dr. Juanita Urban-Rich’s research interests and focus is on coastal zooplankton distribution and their inputs to particulate and dissolved carbon cycles and on global environmental education. Zooplankton are an important trophic link to many commercial fisheries and to the North Atlantic Right Whale in Massachusetts Bay. In order to better understanding their distribution and grazing habits, she has research projects looking at coastal plankton distributions and the influence of the freshwater inputs on these communities. Additionally, she has found that zooplankton excrete a unique humic-like compound that can be detected using fluorescence spectrophotometry. Dr. Urban-Rich has ongoing research involving both field and laboratory work on the development and testing of a fluorometer to measure in situ zooplankton inputs to fluorescent dissolved organic matter (FDOM) is continuing in the Virgin Islands and in Massachusetts Bay.  

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Dr. Alan Wiig

School for the Environment, alan.wiig@umb.edu

Dr. Alan Wiig’s research examines the social and economic impacts of digital, mobile information and communication technologies. Research projects include: 1) smart city, digitally-driven methods of electronic government (e-gov), civic engagement, and economic development; 2) the geopolitics of economic development between China and the United Kingdom; 3) the energy demands of mobile communication. Since arriving at UMass Boston his research has expanded to include comparative work on Boston and Dublin, Ireland on the re-use of urban waterfronts (formerly docks, piers, warehouses, shipping and logistics infrastructure) as sites for economic development around innovation and information-focused, high technology industries. In addition, he has mentored over 150 undergraduate students working with over 400 urban youth at Temple University’s Urban Apps & Maps Studios, a university-community partnership focusing on digital inclusion, urban fieldwork, and workforce education in North Philadelphia between 2010 and 2015. At UMass Boston, he has worked with 2 undergraduate students on theses.

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