People have heard of Boston’s famed “Emerald Necklace” with its network of parks and green spaces. Northeastern University assistant professor Julia Hopkins hopes that Boston soon will be known for the “Emerald Tutu,” a system of interconnected circular mats of floating vegetation that can be arranged in rings and semicircles to protect urban coasts from sea level rise and intensified storms. Like land-based parks, the Emerald Tutu is designed to feature walkways that get people out in nature—in this case out on the shallow waters of coastal shorelines.
But in addition to being aesthetically pleasing and recreational, the Emerald Tutu would absorb wave energy and help ameliorate the flooding that increasingly threatens to inundate Boston and other coastal cities. “It functions as a marsh without being a marsh,” says Hopkins, who specializes in civil and environmental engineering and is lead scientist for the Emerald Tutu startup.