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Prof's exhibit examines effects of climate change on New England

An interactive exhibit created by a Brown professor will travel New England over the next five years.

"Seasons of Change: Global Warming in our Backyard" tells the story of global warming in New England, describing how climate change may affect New England traditions such as lobster fishing and maple syrup collecting. It has been in the EcoTarium, a private science museum located in Worcester, Mass., since January.

Steven Hamburg, associate professor of environmental studies, is the scientist who initiated the project, he said. Hamburg, who has served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading international body tasked with reviewing scientific research on climate change, said he has been fascinated by translating the global picture to local terms since the 1990s.

"We wrote one of the first local impact studies (on) seasons of change in New Hampshire," Hamburg said. Years later, Hamburg led the creation of a group of scientists to document the story of global warming in New England and received a $1.74 million grant from the National Science Foundation for the project, he said.

The exhibit's purpose, according to Hamburg, is not necessarily for people "to do something right tomorrow" but for people to "realize the scale of the problem."

"When things are happening slowly, it is easy to ignore it," he said. "This year, the duration of ice on New Hampshire lakes is two weeks less than the least amount seen in 45 years," he said.

Hamburg said he hopes this exhibit will help viewers differentiate between the weather conditions and the overall climate trend, making the issue real and bringing it close to home.

According to Alex Goldowsky, the EcoTarium's director of programs and exhibits, the exhibit has attracted mostly young families with children. Goldowsky, who is also an adviser for the project, said he thinks the exhibit is truly unique in its ability to blend cutting-edge technology and an engaging method of presentation.

At the end of the exhibit, participants are invited to write their thoughts on comment cards.

"Even though there is a small number of skeptical comments," Goldowsky said, "the majority of comments written are very thoughtful, and the conversations started here are extremely engaging."

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