LivingLab Nantucket 2013

doing a transect at Folgers salt marsh
ready for a field trip

Hi, my name is Anamarija Frankic, I am a faculty at UMass Boston, marine biologist, biomimicry fellow and founder of the LivingLabs. My home is a small island (52 km²), Preko in Croatia, half a size of Nantucket but a much higher island (300m). So starting the first LivingLab on this beautiful island was a dream come true.

What are LivingLabs?  The LivingLabs® are practical response to growing environmental challenges, including habitat degradation, loss of biodiversity, and climate change.  Each unique LivingLab program develops and implements holistic solutions to environmental challenges right here and now, in the specific location where they are started.  They provide graduate and undergraduate students with opportunities for hands-on transdisciplinary applied research experience, addressing local community needs and providing solutions. In addition, the goal is for students to develop professional networks through internships at NGOs, businesses and government agencies, as well as with their LivingLabs® advisors, mentors and peers.

Since 2008, my students and I have established many small LivingLabs® in Boston Harbor and local watersheds as part of the Green Harbors Project, at UMass Boston.  Here on Nantucket we plan to expand upon successes from the Green Harbors’ independent and capstone projects, where undergraduate and graduate environmental education and research was based on teaching and learning, by actually doing concrete projects that support local community needs. This approach is specifically designed to integrate practical learning and innovation with professional and entrepreneurial skills development and teamwork.

The LivingLabs® can be anywhere, so I proposed one for the Nantucket Island. It is a perfect fit, and based on the island’s history, traditional knowledge, conservation efforts, and the existing UMass Boston Field Station led by Dr. Sarah Oktay. We hope that the LivingLab program on Nantucket will, in the long run, provide that ‘missing link’ between green education, green jobs and a green economy.

Why does this matter? Doesn’t everyone want to be healthy, wealthy and sustainable? Colleges and universities around the world are increasingly embracing strategies and initiatives focused on promoting campus sustainability and social responsibility. However, the most significant impediment for sustainable adaptations in human systems and conservation of natural systems is NOT a lack of knowledge but IS the need for all stakeholders to understand the whole systems-level intricacies that true adaptation, conservation and sustainability require.  What better place to teach and learn about entire systems if not on the island, where everything and everyone is connected directly or indirectly by water, land, ocean or shellfish.

And here we are – the LivingLab Nantucket, successfully started on January 20, welcomed by the local community, and financially supported by ReMain Nantucket and UMass Boston team led by Dr. Robyn Hannigan.

The first cohort of 20 students started their independent studies and teamed up in five capstone research projects. You can learn more about them by visiting the LivingLabs blog, Facebook and web sites, and we will be posting updates, pictures and videos right here on NantucketChronicle.com.
Please feel free to comment or ask questions at any time--we look forward to hearing from you.

Comments

Dr. Francic has been active in coastal environmental activities for a long period of time. She is an experienced and able leader for this project. as an individual that has spent much time on the island with students I am aware of the great  field learning learning potential for students in physical,biological,spatial  and environmental research. Students and islanders can profit from this work

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