Opinion

Brain power in Nahant

“College town” isn’t the first description typically applied to Nahant. But the island community linked to the mainland by a causeway has its own academic powerhouse out on East Point.  Described by Northeastern University, its parent institution, as a “world-class facility,” the Marine Science Center uses Nahant as a base from which to explore the Atlantic Ocean and its coastal proximities.

Scientists explore seascape genetics, ocean genome legacy and other topics at the Center. Their research probably makes sense only to people who hold an advanced degree in marine biology or oceanography. But everyone knows the ocean plays a significant role in North Shore life and it only takes a nor’easter to remind seaside residents, especially ones in Nahant, of its power.

With a new year unfolding, now is a good time to reinforce the center’s relevance to the people who live around it and along the North Shore.

In conjunction with North Shore Community College’s Lynn campus, Salem State University and local libraries, Center scientists should find opportunities to highlight how their studies foster an understanding of the ocean’s impact on local coastways and waterfronts.

Through seminars, tours and field trips, ocean experts working in the Center can educate local residents about how the ocean has shaped the region’s coastline and how it will reshape in the years and decades to come.

The Center is also a jumping-off point in tandem with local academic institutions for shining a light on basic environmental awareness and conservation efforts area residents can undertake to keep coastal waters and beachfronts clean.

How the ocean and the North Shore’s populated coastline interact is not just a topic exclusive to scientists and students who rotate through the Center.

As homeowners, taxpayers and water and sewer ratepayers, Lynn residents and neighbors in Nahant and other communities have a dollar and cents investment in ocean research.

Lynn Water and Sewer commission is contemplating a mega-million dollar investment aimed at reducing discharges of partially-treated sewage into coastal waters. Storm-driven beach erosion is a challenge impacting premium real estate values and the future of public beaches in Revere, Lynn, Marblehead and Nahant.

It’s easy to look out at the ocean and contemplate its majesty and plenty of area residents sail and fish in local waters. But the Center’s work and its location in Nahant make it the perfect partner in a sustained effort by residents and local governments to understand long-term environmental concerns, including climate change.

It may not be as visible or well known as other academic institutions but the Center has a role to play in helping North Shore residents understand how the ocean will continue shaping the environment and economy in coastal communities.

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