News: Featured Stories

Austin Blackmon, Paul Kirshen, Ellen Douglas, and J. Keith Motley at the Norman B. Leventhal Awards Ceremony (Photo by Anna Fisher-Pinkert)
October 7, 2016

UMass Boston Professors Honored with Leventhal Environment Award

  • Boston

Two professors from UMass Boston’s School for the Environment were honored for their work on the environment at the sixth annual Norman B. Leventhal Awards for Excellence in City Building. Ellen Douglas, associate professor of hydrology, and Paul Kirshen, professor of climate adaptation, were selected by A Better Cityas the recipients of this year’s environment award.

The awards honor infrastructure leaders and innovators in the fields of land development, transportation, and environment who have made significant contributions to the Greater Boston region’s built environment. The ceremony featured a keynote address from United States Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.

A Better City selected Douglas and Kirshen for their leadership of Boston’s Research Advisory Group, whose consensus report serves as the basis for Climate Ready Boston’s climate resiliency solutions initiative. The report describes the likely impacts of climate change on the city, from sea level rise to rising temperatures to extreme precipitation. The report also addresses how decreasing emissions could help to avoid the worst-case scenarios in the next 50 or 100 years.

In addition to his work on the report, Kirshen is also the academic director of the new Sustainable Solutions Lab at UMass Boston. Douglas serves as graduate program director in the School for the Environment.

Austin Blackmon, chief of environment, energy, and open space for the city of Boston, presented the award to Kirshen and Douglas. "In Boston, it's difficult to find two more prominent climate pioneers," Blackmon said.

Douglas brought to the stage a long, multi-colored measuring stick representing expected flooding due to climate change in Boston. "The blue means, 'get your boat out!'" she said. The stick is emblematic of Kirshen and Douglas's approach to demystifying climate science for the general public and for city policymakers.

“It is an honor to receive this award on a personal and professional level,” Kirshen said. “This award is particularly significant as it not only recognizes the high level of attention climate change management receives in Boston, but also the importance of scientific research and outreach to support planning – much of which has been done at the UMass Boston School for the Environment.”

Thomas Glynn, CEO of Massport, and Tim Rowe and Brian Dacey of the Cambridge Innovation Center received awards in the fields of transportation and land development, respectively. Past Leventhal award winners include Michael Dukakis, Deval Patrick, and Thomas Menino.

“Dr. Ellen Douglas and Dr. Paul Kirshen are not only excellent scientists, but strong and effective leaders, collaborators and communicators,” said Rick Dimino, president and CEO of A Better City. “Their development of the Climate Consensus Impact Report coordinated with over 20 colleague scientists in an excellent display of research partnership. The document has influenced climate studies throughout the region and beyond, proving the immense value of their expertise in sustainable resiliency efforts.”

About A Better City
A Better City is a diverse group of business leaders united around a common goal: to enhance Boston and the region’s economic health, competitiveness, vibrancy, sustainability, and quality of life. With 130 member companies across multiple sectors, A Better City operates between the private and public sectors using technical expertise and research capabilities to shape key policies, projects, and initiatives. For more information, please visit