The Green Harbors Project For Coastal Ecosystem Stewardship

Our goal is to establish green urban harbors - harbors that live within ecological and human limits.  The GHP supports coastal ecosystem stewardship through effective education, outreach, research and monitoring activities with local communities and harbor users. Through the associated LivingLabs, we provide unique opportunities to teach and learn by doing hands-on projects that address and solve local environmental issues.


The GHP methodology is derived from a 1500 year-old Native Hawaiian Ahupua'a approach. These ancient sustainable practices went 'from the top of the mountain and watershed to the coral reefs' ensuring the stewardship of water, fish and natural resources across all habitats.Ahupua'a followed the underlying transects of keystone habitats nature had established in a coastal area for over millions of years that best fit and supported the needs of estuarine harbors for fish habitats, nutrient retention, water filtration and shoreline protection from erosion and storms.

Under the Ahupua’a approach, the main connection (and sometimes impediment) among the different self-sustaining units in a watershed is both water quality and water quantity. Therefore, land stewardship practices were established to ensure that the water used for agricultural purposes higher up the mountains was either unaffected or enhanced for downstream uses as well as for the coastal harbors.

In Boston (our Nation's first harbor), the GHP seeks to implement a similar interconnectedness between the City of Boston and Boston Harbor. Based on the Ahupua'a approach, the GHP envisioned three potential layers/units where the LivingLabs should be established between academia and the local communities:

1. The City’s and Harbor’s main watersheds: Neponset, Charles and Mystic

      a. The LivingLabs focus is on storm water management, green roofs and other pervious surfaces, as well as habitat restoration for watersheds self-sustainability

2. Coastal intertidal areas (i.e. LivingLabs at the Savin Hill Cove):

      a. I.e. the Harbor Walk (potential restoration sites for native shellfish - oysters & mussels)

      b. Salt marsh restoration sites (i.e. floating islands)

      c. Tidal mud flats with soft shell clam restoration

3. Eelgrass beds and their restoration in Boston Harbor

The LivingLabs restoration approach is based on integrated restoration of three keystone coastal habitats where oyster reefs, and other shellfish beds are in the transect with salt marshes and eel grass beds. These keystone habitats have been established in nature for millions of years and cannot be restored successfully when separated from each other (Frankic et al, 2011).


GHP Director - Dr. Anamarija Frankic

Dr. Frankic is a research professor at School for the Environment, UMass Boston, a Biomimicry Fellow, Fulbright Fellow, adjunct professor at the Institute of fisheries and oceanography in Split, Croatia. Her background in biology, ecology, limnology and marine science, translates in her work in coastal ecosystems conservation and management nationally and internationally. She helped develop and implement major conservation projects in Croatia, and the Adriatic region funded through the GEF, World Bank, UNEP and EU. The vision, mission and goals in her work are based on the integration of teaching, service and research - in order to best practice coastal ecosystem stewardship right here and now. In 2009, she and her students initiated and started the Green Harbors Project (GHP) with a vision that any urban harbor can become green and sustainable area if managed within environmental limitations, while recognizing strength in ecological and human diversities. While at UMass Boston she teaches Biomimicry, and developed the first biomimicry course that fulfils general education criteria for science requirments. She also started the “Adopt a Student for a Green Job” program that supports most of her undergraduate and graduate students through their academic endeavor and provides employment.

Graduate Students

Deniz Bertuna
Lisa Greber
Chris McIntyre
Seth Sheldon
Timothy McGuire
Zvjezdana Popovic
Mike Riccio
Anny Cataldo
Shelley Edmundson
Kimberly Starbuck
Kendall Walker
Carrie Schuman


Boston’s Green Harbors Project (GHP) largely originated as a response to the designation of Boston Harbor as a No Discharge Area (NDA). NDA’s prohibit the release of treated or untreated sewage from boats in the harbor. However, under the direction of Dr. Anamarija Frankic, NDA’s have since grown to encompass a broader range incorporating education, research and outreach projects. The recent designation of this NDA (July 24, 2008) within Boston Harbor made it clear that there is a need for more comprehensive assessment and analysis of the local environmental as well as corresponding social and economic conditions. This designation also provides an ideal opportunity to develop guidelines for the first ‘green harbor’ in the US.


On October 20, 2008 a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Boston and UMass Boston’s Division of Marine Operations,EEOS Department (presently the School for the Environment) and the Urban Harbor Institute initiated an NDA monitoring project. In accordance with this agreement:

  1. UMass Boston operated will operate a City of Boston pump-out (P/O) boat for a period of five years (*** it should be noted that the P/O boat is no longer a part of the GHP or UMass Boston as the fie year period has passed***);
  2. The EEOS department (currently the School for the Environment)will provide the expertise to support research, education and outreach designed to help increase awareness about the harbor’s water quality and the NDA.

It is important to acknowledge that the P/O boat activity in Boston Harbor was “undertaken in connection with the settlement of an enforcement action, United States v. Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, taken on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act.” 

Dr. Frankic embraced this opportunity to develop a broad GHP project, engaging over 45 students from her spring and summer semester classes as well as establishing a set of interdisciplinary research, education and outreach sites in Boston Harbor. The student and citizen research initiatives and projects include monitoring for marine invasive species, water quality/zooplankton sampling and analysis, and assessments at local saltmarshes/public beaches. In addition, some other student projects include the Green Roofs in Boston Metro Area (BMA), the Greening of the Cruise Lines in Boston Harbor and developing an Outdoor-Classroom at Mather Elementary School (the first public school in the USA).

One of the overall aims of the Green Harbors Project will be to construct a detailed assessment and GIS analysis of the Boston Harbor recreational/commercial boating activities as well as P/O activities. The assessment on boating activities will include: boat numbers, types and locations as well as their use of P/O facilities. Also to be included in the assessment is:

  1. The adequacy and identification of potential gaps in the exiting and planned P/O coverage/capacity in the Boston Harbor area;
  2. Public awareness and knowledge about P/O importance and the role of these activities in the improvement of coastal water quality;
  3. The negative impact of waste discharges from boats not engaging in P/O activities.

In order to meet our goal of integrating natural and socioeconomic indicators, it is important that we develop surveys, questionnaires, and other social science methods to begin to understand the feedback loops between human activities and the conditions of coastal ecosystems.  Paying particular attention to culture and meaning, the evaluative strategies will employ languages, formats, and outreach programs appropriate to our expected audience. In some cases we will include selected members of the research audience in the development of surveys or other research tools.

Few surveys and questionnaires (Institutional Review Board approved) have been developed for use with boaters and P/O activity (May 1 – October 15, 2009). The implementation of these surveys will allow us to collect data on a variety of subjects including: boating activities, types of marine sanitation devices (MSD) aboard vessels, methods boaters regularly employ to dispose of sewage, how well boaters are informed concerning availability of P/O facilities, how often they use these facilities as well as concerns related to their use, the best ways to promote P/O services, and how much boaters would be willing to pay for P/O services.

Based on these survey results and comprehensive environmental and socio-economic assessments, the GHP will be able to make recommendations for best management practices concerning three key areas:

  1. Improvements in the availability and use of P/O services;
  2. Monitoring, evaluation and enforcement of the NDA in BH;
  3. Establishment of guidelines for a sustainable Green Boston Harbor.

‘Adopt’ a Student for a Green Job

Adopt a Student! (Download brochure here)

Investing in each student's environmental education ensures our sustainable future.

Undergraduate Student at UMass Boston/Year ~ $18,000.00
Graduate Student at UMass Boston/Year ~ $28,000.00

The environmental, social and economic health of our coastal urban areas depends on their integration within healthy, resilient coastal ecosystems.  It will take all of us - students, educators, businesses, and neighborhood associations - to make this happen.  With your help, GHP will continue to provide a green workforce educational system that prepares prepares our students and community residents for green, skilled positions with employers who are now experiencing critical shortages in this area. This project supports the formation and long-term expansion of the ‘green sector’, as any job can become ‘a green job’ if based on green education, eco-literacy and environmental limitations.

Please contact us to find out more: