Coastal Conservation

Shangtong Li ’19 works to build sustainable future for coastal cities.

Cities along the U.S. coast, which are home to more than 65 million people, are particularly vulnerable to the rising seas and storms caused by climate change — and the need for solutions for everything from sustainable infrastructure to wetland restoration and expansion have never been more necessary. The safety of those communities, as well as their cultures and economies, are at stake.

MICA alum Shangtong Li ’19 (Interdisciplinary Sculpture BFA) has long understood the urgency around our planet’s climate thanks to an artist talk at MICA, an event that shifted her worldview, as well as her career path. That talk — which featured photographer Chris Jordan, whose work includes images of garbage and mass consumption — led Li on a journey of discovery about climate change. She eventually began experimenting with ways to make environmentally friendly art materials in MICA’s Biofabrication Lab, interned with scientists from Johns Hopkins in the MICA-HEMI Extreme Arts Program, and later earned an MA in Climate and Society at Columbia University.

Today, Li is a fellow at the Urban Ocean Lab, a Brooklyn-based think tank focused on cultivating rigorous, creative, equitable, and practical climate policy for coastal cities. In her current role, she is using her creative skills to help the organization better communicate its research to policymakers and the broader public. And her work has the potential to not only improve the future of her current community — and those well beyond — it is proving that creative methods of making and thinking are increasingly valued and necessary across fields.