News: Featured Stories

July 20, 2016

UMass Boston students visit Brazil, research coastal environment


  • Boston
UMass Boston environmental students travel to Brazil to research coastal environment

UMass Boston environmental science students have traveled over 4,000 miles to better understand global climate history. Undergraduate students from the School for the Environment and professor Allen Gontz are in northeast Brazil this month, conducting research in the coastal state of Sergipe through a partnership with Universidade Tiradentes.

The trip is funded by a grant from the Partners of the Americas 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund, which Gontz and Chancellor J. Keith Motley accepted at a White House ceremony in December.

Gontz is leading a group of seven students from UMass Boston and San Diego State University, who are joining seven colleagues from Universidade Tiradentes to learn about the geology and climate in Sergipe.

“I hope to gain not only an educational experience but also a cultural relationship and friendship with my peers,” said Erika Welch, a sophomore environmental science major at UMass Boston.

While in Brazil, students are investigating the coastal zone of Sergipe near the Rio Vaza-Barris for evidence of past sea level storms and changes in climate using a ground penetrating radar and extracting sediment cores. They are exploring the geology of the oil-rich Alagoas Basin, and looking at coastal dune fields. They are also visiting sites of significant societal and cultural importance in Aracaju and in Canion Xingo.

“As we advance through the 21st century, geoscientists will be called upon to help address natural and societal issues that impact society such as climate change, energy production, and food security,” Gontz said. “This initiative will prepare students to find solutions and innovations while building long-lasting international collaborations.”

“Ensuring that our environmental students have a broad and deep appreciation of how our Earth systems work, how processes operate across time and space to shape our coasts is crucial to training them to tackle wicked problems like climate changes,” said School for the Environment Dean Robyn Hannigan. “What better way to teach them than to bring them to one of the most dynamic coastal zones in the world.”