Campus & Community

Earthwatch Institute moves world headquarters to Harvard property in Allston

4 min read

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Earthwatch Institute, a leading international nonprofit environmental organization, will move its world headquarters to the Allston neighborhood of Boston this spring, Harvard University announced today (March 24).

Earthwatch, an organization committed to scientific research and environmental education, has a staff of approximately 50 and will occupy 15,000 square feet of Harvard-owned property at 114 Western Ave. that once served as the headquarters of WGBH media. The move is scheduled for April 26.

To celebrate its arrival in the community, Earthwatch will offer three fellowships for Allston/Brighton public school teachers, who will be able to join one of its research expeditions to advance public understanding of science and the changing environment. Earthwatch also envisions lectures, open houses, and other forms of outreach to neighboring communities starting in June.

The lease agreement between Harvard and Earthwatch highlights the University’s continuing stewardship of its properties and active engagement with the Allston community.

Last December, President Drew Faust said Harvard would focus on “aggressive and effective leasing of vacant or partially vacant Harvard properties, and community engagement,” in an effort to improve neighborhood vitality.

Earlier this year, Harvard opened a free, temporary indoor ice rink in a formerly vacant Allston property that has resulted in more than 2,000 visits in less than two months. Harvard continues to market available properties aggressively, seeking tenants that can enliven the community through new services or public programming.

“In Earthwatch, we’ve found an organization that will be an important presence in Allston and an exciting addition to the growing green jobs sector in Boston,” said Katie Lapp, Harvard’s executive vice president. “Earthwatch is a respected, research-based organization with an interest in building stronger ties with Harvard, Allston, and Boston. We’re delighted to be the catalyst for their move.”

“The need for objective science-based information about our world has never been greater, and we are poised to develop and deliver practical, sensible solutions that work and connect individuals to help make a difference,” said Ed Wilson, CEO and president of Earthwatch.

“We see our move to across the street from Harvard Business School and into the hub of Boston as critical to our ability to expand our reach to citizens and scientists. We look forward to new partnerships with Boston businesses, schools, and organizations invested in the conservation of our environment,” Wilson said.

A pioneer of citizen science, Earthwatch is one of the world’s largest private funders of research expeditions, with a portfolio of nearly 100 projects in 40 countries that focuses on four priorities: preservation of water and the oceans, understanding the impacts of climate change, conservation of ecosystem services, and protection of cultural heritage. Earthwatch works with employee teams representing more than 30 Fortune 500 companies and has earned a reputation for engaging citizens of all ages in scientific research, especially teachers and students in education programs designed to improve math and science literacy.

“Anytime Harvard finds tenants for its properties that are vacant or partially filled, it’s an encouraging sign. Harvard has made it clear that filling these buildings with viable tenants is a priority, so it’s good to see them continuing on that track,” said Paul Berkeley, chairman of the Allston Civic Association and a Harvard Allston Task Force member. “Bringing Earthwatch to this neighborhood not only fills a vacancy, it brings a notable environmental organization to Allston that could also provide programming that can serve this neighborhood.”

The move to Allston completes the first phase of Earthwatch’s strategic plan to expand the reach of its international research and environmental education programs over the next decade.

It is also the latest chapter in a series of Harvard connections that began in 1972, when Earthwatch founder Brian Rosborough was called to support the eclipse expeditions of Harvard solar astronomer Donald Menzel in Nova Scotia and Mauritania.  That expedition launched Earthwatch’s unique approach to social venture capital. Since then, nine Harvard scientists, including noted biologist E.O. Wilson, have served as science advisers. More than a dozen Harvard scientists have been principal investigators for Earthwatch since its founding.

Earthwatch will host open houses in the new Allston headquarters in June to introduce itself to its Allston and Harvard neighbors, as it explores ways to strengthen its local ties and engage the surrounding community in its mission.

For more information on Earthwatch and its Harvard connections.