UMass Boston Awarded $3.1 mln National Science Foundation Grant for “Coasts and Communities”
August 20, 2013  //  By:   //  Blog Post, Featured  //  No Comment

The University of Massachusetts Boston received a $3.1 million Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the project “Coasts and Communities: Natural and Human Systems in Urbanizing Environments.” Funded over five years, the program will train PhDs as a new generation of environmental problem solvers, able to create and implement sustainable solutions to emerging problems that cut across environmental and social lines. “The IGERT is a game changer for the University of Massachusetts Boston and a huge accomplishment,” said John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies dean Ira Jackson, noting that the grant is, “both local and global, highly collaborative, transnational, transdisciplinary, and transformative.”

As the world’s population migrates to coastal areas, the issues facing human and natural systems are becoming global in scope and impact. Environmental leaders must work across scales, geographies, and disciplines in order to implement solutions. The IGERT program will equip students in the four participating doctoral programs – environmental science, environmental biology, global governance and human security, and business administration: organizations and social change – with the knowledge, skills, and contacts that will enable them to address these systems at the nexus of society and the environment. As one of the reviewers noted, “Graduates of this program will be very attractive in multiple job settings: state, federal, and municipal environmental, regulatory, social service, and global security agencies; NGOs and non-profits; governmental policy making organizations; international organizations; as well as universities and research institutions that are posturing to tackle the intractable problems that the Anthropocene is bringing to us all. This type of transdisciplinary training will contribute to the defense against a huge and real threat.”

The Coasts and Communities program is one of eighteen IGERT grants funded by NSF in the 2013 fiscal year, out of the one-hundred and fifty-six proposals submitted. Leading the effort were Maria Ivanova, GEG Project Director and Assistant Professor in the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies and Robyn Hannigan, Dean of the School for the Environment at UMass Boston. They were joined by eighteen faculty across four UMass Boston colleges and schools, as well as five professors from Addis Ababa University and the University of Nairobi.

International collaboration is a core part of the Coasts and Communities initiative as students will apply scientifically rigorous and policy relevant methodologies to assess and address environmental risks in coupled natural-human systems in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti. The knowledge they gain will be applicable to urban and urbanizing coastal areas across the world. The students will also benefit from the institutional framework provided by UMass Boston’s new School for the Environment, the McCormack Graduate School as well as the Urban Harbors Institute, the Nantucket Field Station, and the Center for Governance and Sustainability.

The collaboration of international partners is critical to the success of the Coasts and Communities program. Institutional collaborators include:

  • The Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre and Network
  • Addis Ababa University
  • University of Nairobi
  • Egerton University
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)

Students who wish to apply for the Coasts and Communities IGERT program should contact Meagan Damore in the School for the Environment at UMass Boston (; 1-617-287-7440).


About the Author :

Daniel Zaleznik is a Research Associate for the Center for Governance and Sustainability, and a Masters student in International Relations at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He graduated in 2008 from Vanderbilt University with his B.A. in Philosophy.

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