2023 2023: Governor Healey leads climate change discussion at UMass Dartmouth

2023 2023: Governor Healey leads climate change discussion at UMass Dartmouth
Governor Healey leads climate change discussion at UMass Dartmouth

The workforce development-focused roundtable featured top state officials, local politicians, and student and faculty researchers

Governor Healey group photo with students
UMassD students, faculty, and officials including Chancellor Fuller pose with Lt. Governor Driscoll and Governor Healey

On January 10, 2023, UMass Dartmouth hosted a roundtable discussion on climate change, sustainability, and workforce development led by Governor Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll - their first trip outside the State House since being sworn into office.

Joining the discussion was Secretary of Executive Office of Economic Development Yvonne Hao, Secretary of Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs Rebecca Tepper, local politicians, mayors, and recently named Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer. On her first day in office, Healey established the first-in-the-nation Climate Chief position and created the Office of Climate Innovation and Resilience.

The Healey-Driscoll Administration visited UMass Dartmouth to learn more about the University's work around climate sustainability and how it relates to the administration's climate, education, and economic and workforce development goals.

Chancellor Fuller and Governor Healey and Lt. Governor Driscoll
Chancellor Fuller, Governor Healey, and Lt. Governor Driscoll

Alongside state and local officials were Chancellor Mark Fuller, members of his cabinet, and faculty researchers Professor Cindy Pilskaln, Professor Daniel MacDonald, Assistant Professor Ryan Beemer, and Associate Professor Gavin Fay.

The Governor was most eager to hear from students who had conducted research in sustainability-related fields. Graduate student Marcia Campbell, who recently returned from collecting carbon samples at the North Pole to measure climate change, discussed her travels, and Assistant Research Professor Micheline Labrie explained her work in the School for Marine Science & Technology's new $1.2M Biodegradability Lab.

"We are preparing future employees for the clean energy industry and many green and blue economy jobs," said Chancellor Mark Fuller. "Our faculty and students are doing groundbreaking research enhancing coastal resiliency, seeking to understand and combat climate change, and partnering with industry to support sustainable fishing and develop more ocean-safe plastics."

Governor Healey roundtable room

The University's research focus in sustainability and marine science and technology has been invaluable to the evolving fishing industry, burgeoning offshore wind sector, and overall well-being of our region. Over the past three years, UMass Dartmouth received nearly $23M in external funding to study the environment, sustainability, and clean energy, including $16.5M in federal Office of Naval Research funding for the Marine and UnderSea Technology research program (MUST). Professor Pingguo He and Commonwealth Professor Kevin Stokesbury collaborate with offshore wind companies Vineyard Wind and Mayflower Wind to document changes in the marine habitat associated with offshore wind farm development. Projects in the wind farm areas include trawl surveys to assess commercially important fish species and drop camera surveys to study the ocean floor ecosystem.

In addition to research, the University has emphasized workforce development partnerships. Collaborations exist to create a talent pipeline through the "CONNECT4WIND" partnership with the regional higher education consortium, Mass Clean Energy Center offshore wind internship program with Bristol Community College, and New Bedford High School marine science summer internship program.

UMass Dartmouth has also placed great importance on the sustainability of campus infrastructure. The University has replaced 70% of outdated lights on campus with high-efficiency LED bulbs, installed hundreds of energy-efficient windows, optimized the on-campus power plant, and is currently exploring geothermal power. These improvements have led to UMass Dartmouth being named one of the nation's most environmentally responsible colleges by The Princeton Review for eleven years straight.

Governor Healey's visit attracted attention from media across Massachusetts, including articles in MASSLive, the Fall River Herald, and the New Bedford Light.