Student researchers present key findings on beetle infestation’s impact on Worcester’s environment, policies and people

ALB summit logo crp“Prior to the infestation, our neighborhood was an area of beautiful tree lined streets. Shade was abundant and the neighborhood looked lovely. Now our area is barren and depressing.” This is one Worcester resident’s response to a survey question posed by student researchers at Clark University, who, for the past three years, have examined the impacts of the Asian long-horned beetle (ALB) infestation on the physical environment, politics, and society of the Worcester area.

On July 31, students involved with the national Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) program based at Clark and sponsored by the National Science Foundation through its Research Experiences for Undergraduates Site (REU Site) program, held a Stakeholder Summit. They presented findings from their summer research on the impacts of the beetle infestation on forests and communities in the region. After the presentation, community members and representatives from official organizations met in groups to discuss the findings and identify new areas of concern.

 To see a video of the entire Stakeholder Summit presentation, click here.

Click here to watch a TV news segment about the HERO Summit at Clark University.

The 2014 HERO Fellows pause at the start of their summer research program in early June. From left: Amber Todoroff (University of Florida), Albert Bautista (Humboldt State University, CA), Amy Phillips (Clark University), Andrew Veruzzo (College of the Holy Cross), Ali Jackman (Whittier College, CA), Elizabeth Anderson (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, NY), Anona Miller (Appalachian State University, NC), Marina Khananayev (Clark University), Gaia Khairina (Clark University), Ben Ewald (Clark University) and Hannah Rush (Clark University).

The 2014 HERO Fellows pause at the start of their summer research program in early June. From left: Amber Todoroff (University of Florida), Albert Bautista (Humboldt State University, CA), Amy Phillips (Clark University), Andrew Veruzzo (College of the Holy Cross), Ali Jackman (Whittier College, CA), Elizabeth Anderson (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, NY), Anona Miller (Appalachian State University, NC), Marina Khananayev (Clark University), Gaia Khairina (Clark University), Ben Ewald (Clark University) and Hannah Rush (Clark University).

Based on a competitive application process, the eight-week HERO program draws from a diverse group of undergraduate students from across the country. This year’s HERO Fellows came from as far away California and Florida and as close as Clark and Holy Cross. Leading the program were geography associate professors John Rogan and Deb Martin, along with research assistant professor Verna DeLauer and doctoral student Arthur Elmes.

Fellows learned how to use various research methods, including GIS, remote sensing, geostatistical modeling, interviews and focus groups. They are paired with Clark faculty mentors   and other researchers on the HERO team in one of two research domains: Beetle Impact Assessment or Place-Making Assessment. The PMA team noted that residents’ experience with change in community character increases their receptiveness to information regarding environmental issues. BIA group members stated that maintaining a continuous replanting program is necessary to offset the high mortality rate of young trees and ensure that residents will benefit from Worcester’s urban forest in the future.

The HERO-REU program reflects the human-environment research focus that is a hallmark of the Graduate School of Geography at Clark University.

At the opening meeting of the 2014 HERO Fellows program in early June, Anthony Bebbington, Geography department chair, told the students: “This is a chance for you to get to know Worcester, as a team that includes undergraduates, master’s and Ph.D. students. You will see how proud we are of this department. There is nowhere else in the States that has this environment. It clicks here, partly because of the HERO program. You’ll take away a sense of skills and orientations that you’ll use in any environment — from the World Bank to a city government.

“This will be a summer to take away a set of skills that are going to be with you forever.”

Founded in 1887 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Clark University is a liberal arts-based research university addressing social and human imperatives on a global scale. Nationally renowned as a college that changes lives, Clark is emerging as a transformative force in higher education today. LEEP (Liberal Education and Effective Practice) is Clark’s pioneering model of education that combines a robust liberal arts curriculum with life-changing world and workplace experiences. Clark’s faculty and students work across boundaries to develop solutions to complex challenges in the natural sciences, psychology, geography, management, urban education, Holocaust and genocide studies, environmental studies, and international development and social change. The Clark educational experience embodies the University’s motto: Challenge convention. Change our world. www.clarku.edu