Designing a Living Laboratory on the Boston Harbor Islands to Support Transdisciplinary Research and Education on Coastal Resilience

Robert F Chen1, Mark Borrelli2, Kirk Bosma3, Paul H Kirshen1, Lucy Lockwood4 and Francesco Peri1, (1)University of Massachusetts Boston, School for the Environment, Boston, MA, United States, (2)Center for Coastal Studies, Provincetown, United States, (3)Woods Hole Group, Inc., East Falmouth, United States, (4)University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA, United States
Rising sea level combined with episodic storm surge are placing at risk billions of dollars of public and private property, infrastructure, and commerce in Boston. A greater understanding of the mechanisms of storm surge impacts, observations of natural and manmade adaptations during storms, and long-term assessment of nature-based strategies that offer multiple co-benefits such as recreation, biodiversity, productivity, carbon sequestration, and/or social equity, is paramount for increasing resilience of the Boston Harbor system, as well as other coastal systems worldwide. Therefore, a living laboratory is being developed with the infrastructure to support transdisciplinary research and education on coastal resilience.

A diverse team of scientists, managers, climate adaptation experts, engineers, and regulators are designing a Living Laboratory for Coastal Resilience on Rainsford Island in Boston Harbor. Preliminary experiments on settling behavior on a variety of building materials have already begun in the summer of 2019. Baseline monitoring is being conducted, observational infrastructure will be constructed and installed soon, and experiments will commence in the Living Laboratory in Winter/Spring 2020. The Living Lab will supply real-time monitoring of waves, water quality, and imagery so that researchers and the public can assess the success of coastal resilience strategies in real-time. Core research design has focused on the development of the Resilient Ecosystem Adaptable Coastal Tiered (REACT) framework. In the REACT framework, tiers are developed independently and range from offshore subtidal (e.g. offshore reef and/or boulder field) to intertidal (e.g. cobble berm and/or living shoreline) to upland (e.g. green seawall and/or terrace) and are installed over time. Each tier will be designed and installed in response to changes in the physics, chemistry, and biology of the system that result from the previous tier. All manipulations will be over-sampled so that unexpected consequences will be observed.