‘Storm Surge’ Predicts the Effects of Climate Change on Boston

Exhibit Ushers in Next Phase of ScienceToGo.org Public-Education Campaign

05/08/2014


Contacts for media:
UMass Boston – Anna Pinkert, Anna.Pinkert@umb.edu, 617-287-5459
UMass Lowell – Christine Gillette, Christine_Gillette@uml.edu, 978-934-2209
Museum of Science – AJ Gosselin, AGosselin@mos.org, 617-589-0251

BOSTON – An interactive citywide exhibit called “Storm Surge in Boston” that kicked off today will give the public a glimpse of what the landscape could look like if global warming goes unchecked.

The monthlong exhibit is the latest undertaking by ScienceToGo.org, a campaign to engage the public in learning about climate change.

Unveiled today at an event at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park, “Storm Surge in Boston,” shows eight key points in the city to which sea level would rise – at minimum – if climate change continues unabated. The exhibit comes at a critical time in researchers’ understanding of climate change, as the National Climate Assessment released this week asserted the phenomenon’s resulting dangerous and destructive weather is expected to become increasingly disruptive throughout this century.
 
Launched in October 2013, ScienceToGo.org is engaging the public on the issue of climate change by bringing science education out of the classroom and into everyday life. A joint project of educators and scientists from UMass Lowell, UMass Boston, Hofstra University and the Museum of Science, the program is supported by a National Science Foundation grant. ScienceToGo.org teaches climate science using exhibits like “Storm Surge in Boston,” social media and public transportation signage in partnership with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.

ScienceToGo.org began last fall with the introduction of posters and car cards aboard the MBTA’s Red and Orange line trains and in stations to encourage the 500,000 commuters who ride the public-transit routes daily to learn more about climate science. Each month, T riders are introduced to new messages from “Ozzie the Ostrich” and his flock, who, instead of putting their heads in the sand on the issue, share insights about how climate change affects the Boston area and how the public can get involved with efforts to avert it.

“Storm Surge in Boston” builds on the MBTA campaign by placing Ozzie and his fellow birds, in the form of 8-foot-tall blue ostrich figures, at eight locations around the city – Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park, the USS Constitution Museum, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Children’s Wharf, South Station and the Airport, Aquarium and JFK/UMass MBTA stations – where sea-level rise could be significant.

“We are thrilled that these birds have finally made it to Boston and landed in all the correct spots. Many talented people from across the country worked very hard on this phase of the initiative. We hope that ‘Ozzie and friends’ help pedestrians see how rising sea levels could impact this city,” said Prof. David Lustick of UMass Lowell’s Graduate School of Education, who is leading the project. “Together with our website its ostriches on the T, we offer a range of ways for people to learn about the science of climate change.”

“We have been very careful to use the most accurate science and best available data to create the Boston sea-level-rise map, determine the predicted flooding levels and to locate the ostrich exhibits in popular low-lying areas. The ostriches are a visual display of a rare, but potentially very real flooding event.  We hope people will be curious about the ostriches and will explore how climate change will establish a ‘new normal’ in the city,” said Prof. Bob Chen, a faculty member in the School for the Environment at UMass Boston.

Activities from the Museum of Science focused on climate change were featured at the kickoff event.

“This project is about engaging the public in ways schools and museums normally don’t. People will be surprised by the ostriches and we hope they’ll enjoy and learn from them. If the ostriches really work, then we’ll have learned something important, too,” said David Radkin, Farinon Director for Current Science and Technology at the Museum of Science.

As part of “Storm Surge in Boston,” members of the public can participate in the “Awesome Ostrich Adventure” scavenger hunt by using social media to share photos with the ostriches in all eight locations. The public can also interact with Ozzie via @BostonOstrich on Twitter, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sciencetogo and with the new “PaparOzzie” mobile app – available at www.sciencetogo.org – that allows users to take a photo with Ozzie and post it.

“From a marketing perspective, the ostrich displays in and around Boston landmarks offer a clever and natural extension of our transit advertising campaign into other spaces where commuters spend time,” said Associate Prof. Rick Wilson, who teaches marketing and international business at Hofstra University’s Zarb School of Business. “These displays, especially when combined with our transit posters, social-media platforms and the PaparOzzie web application, truly represent innovative marketing within the science community. It’s also a novel and fun way to start a conversation about climate change.”

Preliminary research conducted for ScienceToGo.org showed mass-transit systems could serve as a traveling classroom, as 80 percent of the MBTA riders surveyed responded they were interested in learning more about climate science.

“We’re interested in learning about how effective out-of-home venues typically reserved for advertising can be for educational purposes. We are so grateful to the city of Boston, the MBTA and the property owners who allowed us to put an ostrich on their property so that we could have this space to use for informal science education,” said Jill Lohmeier, a professor in UMass Lowell’s Graduate School of Education. “In order to assess the effectiveness of using these venues for educational purposes, we are surveying T riders at various times throughout the project to measure the extent to which riders recognize Ozzie, are aware of the ScienceToGo.org project and most importantly, learn about climate change issues.”

The MBTA has provided pro-bono advertising space on placards and car cards for ScienceToGo.org. Brodeur Partners and Bowman Global Change, with designer Ed Hackley, developed the campaign’s creative concept and design after seeking input from an advisory board that included representatives from the MBTA, the Smithsonian Institution and other organizations.

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its 17,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health and environment, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers. www.uml.edu

The Museum of Science, Boston: One of the world’s largest science centers and Boston’s most attended cultural institution, the Museum introduces about 1.5 million visitors a year to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) via dynamic programs and interactive exhibits. Founded in 1830, the Museum was first to embrace all the sciences under one roof. Highlights include the Thomson Theater of Electricity, Charles Hayden Planetarium, Mugar Omni Theater, Gordon Current Science & Technology Center and Butterfly Garden. The Museum’s “Science is an Activity” exhibit plan has influenced science centers worldwide. The Museum has been recognized by Boston and Cambridge for its energy efforts. Visit www.mos.org. Follow the Museum of Science on Twitter at @MuseumOfScience or Facebook at www.facebook.com/museumofscience.

Recognized for its innovative research addressing complex issues, the University of Massachusetts Boston, metropolitan Boston’s only public university, offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s ten colleges and graduate schools serve 16,000 students while engaging local, national and international constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service activities. To learn more about UMass Boston, visit www.umb.edu.

Hofstra University is a dynamic private institution of higher education where more than 11,000 full- and part-time students choose from undergraduate and graduate offerings in liberal arts and sciences, business, engineering, education, health and human services, honors studies, communications, the Maurice A. Deane School of Law and the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. www.hofstra.edu