Including Many Others in Our Learning

Project Lead: Bob Chen
Start Date: 2021


Boston is a vibrant city on the coast, and is increasingly threatened by big storms, sea level rise, and coastal flooding. If Boston’s residents are not aware of these risks, they may not be prepared for the future that these changes will bring. Individual community members, teachers, K-12 students, and organizations can get engaged in the Stone Living Lab by participating in research, learning how to adapt our coastlines to climate change, and developing and telling the stories of the Lab’s work to others.


Boston is an urban, coastal city with a diverse population that is being increasingly threatened by Nor’easters, sea-level rise, and coastal flooding. However, many of its residents are not aware of these risks nor are they prepared for their impacts. The research to be conducted at the Stone Living Lab will be valuable to the scientists, engineers, and policy-makers who will oversee the adaptations of the Boston Harbor shorelines over the next several decades, but public engagement in the Lab’s activity can also be an effective strategy to build support for nature-based solutions as well as to provide a pathway for diverse, urban students to enter into the growing fields needed to solve future coastal problems.

Research Objectives

The Stone Living Lab (SLL) will conduct cutting-edge, locally and globally important research that will address perhaps the most significant societal issue of this generation: Climate Change Adaptation, with a specific focus on coastal climate change resilience. The SLL core education and outreach plan will focus on three related strategies that will have maximal impact in coastal Boston Harbor communities: 1) Engaging community members, organizations, and school groups as scientists to enhance and extend core research on Rainsford Island as well as increase the interest and engagement of targeted individuals (goal is >100 community scientists) and their networks, 2) Engaging youth from vulnerable coastal Boston communities in resilience planning and producing compelling visuals that tell the Stone Living Lab story, and 3) Creating a network in New England of formal and informal educators that are engaged in coastal adaptation and resilience education and planning.


Community Science (aka Citizen Science) is a collaborative scientific process that both engages non-scientists in authentic scientific inquiry and enhances the research outcomes. In the case of the Stone Living Lab, core research is being conducted by scientists on Rainsford Island, but is limited to the specific contexts of the 11-acre island. Community scientists can provide data with greater geographical coverage (e.g. throughout Boston Harbor), and a wider range of conditions (temperature, wave energy, salinity, substrate) than are available on Rainsford Island. We will work closely with the SLL core research team to develop annual community science projects to enhance and expand the core research on Rainsford Island.

Each year, the SLL will hold a Community Science Training Workshop to extend and expand ongoing SLL research initiatives. We intend to attract community science participants by reaching out to our network of stakeholders, and this group may be enhanced through our partners. Each participant will bring the project to their organization, school, or network so that perhaps 100 community scientists working in an additional 5-7 sites will be supported. We plan to implement projects on beach erosion, settlement and growth on seawall substrates, coastal bluff erosion, and offshore reef biodiversity.

The Visualizing Resilience (VR) program, beginning in 2024, integrates scientific knowledge with the visual arts to increase environmental literacy and an understanding of the need for resilience to extreme weather events. The VR program will introduce systems thinking to children in coastal environmental justice communities in Boston (e.g. Dorchester), develop visualizations of future impacts of and adaptations to sea-level rise, winter storms, and extreme precipitation in Boston and Boston Harbor, and disseminate their artistic representations of impacts and resilience strategies to their families and the public through a diverse set of community celebrations, art exhibits, and media outlets. Our experience is that 1000s of community members are impacted by the art produced by youth within the community.

We will host an SLL Educators Workshop connected to the annual All-Scientists meeting each winter to translate SLL research into a number of existing programs and share effective models of educational programming around coastal resilience. We expect that the SLL community science modules as well as our VR model will be shared and replicated regionally. In addition, this SLL outreach network will identify key barriers and opportunities for sharing successful coastal adaptation strategies. An external evaluator will conduct social network analysis of local stakeholders to evaluate the reach of the evolving SLL education network. We plan to disseminate the results and models of our education and outreach programming through professional and educational societies as well as our ever expanding network


This project extends from 2021-2025.

Student holding crab shell and sea shells found on beach