HERO: Human-Environment Regional Observatory

HERO Logo and then some

Program Description

The Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) program is a unique undergraduate-graduate-faculty experience that engages in research on human-environment relationships in Massachusetts. HERO Fellows conduct hands-on research under the mentorship of Clark University faculty. The research conducted by HERO Fellows often leads to scholarly publications, presentations at academic conferences across the USA, and awards and honors.

This eight-week curriculum (June 9 through August 1, 2014) is sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation through its Research Experiences for Undergraduates Site (REU Site) program. HERO Fellows analyze the causes and consequences of global environmental changes at local scales in faculty-led research projects. Each Fellow is paired with a Clark faculty mentor and other researchers on the HERO team in one of two research domains. Fellows will learn how to use various research methods,including GIS, remote sensing, geostatistical modeling, interviews and focus groups.

Research Areas

HERO-MA Research areas:

Hero engages in two main areas of research concerning the causes and consequences of the Asian longhorn beetle (ALB) infestation in central Massachusetts on urban and ex-urban forests:

Beetle Impact Assessment
This stream produces validated measures of spatial and temporal changes in tree cover composition on the ALB-infestation area. Evaluate impacts of ALB on forest diversity and cover at present and in the future. Methodologies used include landscape metrics, GIS, remote sensing and geospatial modeling.

Place-Making Assessment
This stream assesses management and policymaking responses to community concerns in response to the ALB impacts, involving stakeholders throughout the analysis. Evaluate ALB impacts by socio-economic status, race/ethnicity and management/governance regime to explore how a more engaged stakeholder group would respond to policy as a result of the ALB experience. Methodologies used include qualitative methods, such as interviews and focus groups.

HERO Summer 2014

Clark UniversityNewsHub features work of HERO students from Summer 2014

HERO student presentations at stakeholder summit 2014

2nd HERO Summer Stakeholder Summit great success

Officials hope continued initiative will help communities against the Asian Longhorned Beetle

Students in the HERO summer program presented their findings on July 31, 2014.  Coverage of the Asian Longhorned Beetle Stakeholder summit included members of the HERO summer REU Site program students, faculty and staff alongside members of the Stakeholders from the local neighborhood residents, city, state officials who have been active in the ALB issue.

HERO Summer 2013

Profs. John Rogan and Deborah Martin (Co-PIs) submitted an Op-Ed article to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette on ALB and urban trees.

Asian Longhorned Beetle is downfall of summer in central Mass.

(NECN: Mike Cronin) – One of the downfalls of summer in central Massachusetts is the Asian Longhorned Beetle. It’s been five years since the pest first surfaced in the area. Since then, tens of thousands of trees have been chopped down because of the infestation. One of the hardest hit communities, the town of Shrewsbury, is now taking action to figure out the best way to deal with the problem. Video link




Current Sponsors:

Past Sponsors:

This material is based upon work supported by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) Current Active Grant Nos.SBE-1156935. Past HERO funded grants with continued research beyond that of the HERO Program: BCS-0948984, BCS-0709685, OCE-1058747, EF-1065741, SES-0849985, SES-0951366 and through the PIE, ULTRA-EX, CNH, MACRO-BIO, DCDC II and FCE groups of the LTER. Material is also based upon work supported by US Dept of Commerce (NOAA SARP) Grant No. NA09OAR4310141. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.

The Asian longhorn beetle infestation in Central Massachusetts continues to be studied by the HERO REU Site Summer 2013 program. This program is a continuation of a 3-year NSF grant from May 2012-April 2015.


April 2012: Clark HERO receives NSF $329,992 grant for Asian Longhorn Beetle Infestion in Worcester Area.

Professors John Rogan (lead PI) and Deborah Martin (co-PI) were awarded a three-year, $329,992 "REU Site" grant from the US National Science Foundation entitled “Mapping Beetles, Trees, Neighborhoods, and Policies: A Multi-Scaled, Urban Ecological Assessment of the Asian Longhorned Beetle Invasion in New England (HERO), May 2012 – April 2015.” The purpose of this research is to examine multiple dimensions of the Asian longhorn beetle infestation in Central Massachusetts, from mapping impacts to future projections and multi-scalar policy responses. It will help to unite diverse efforts and establish Clark as a principal player in addressing the ALB crisis in New England. On June 4, 2012 an opending reception for new HERO students and stakeholders was held at Clark. See article >

August 2011: Clark receives $200,000 portion of NSF $2.7M grant.

$2.7M NSF grant "Collaborative Research:  Ecological Homogenization of Urban America," is expected to transform scientific understanding of the nation’s growing urban landscape – on ecological and sociological levels. Project Principal Investigator is from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook NY. The Clark University portion of this grant is $200,000 and the project leader is co-PI, Colin Polsky.  The grant is partly built from research done through other active HERO grants over the past few years.
See article >

USA Today features article on housing crunch with data from HERO and related work.

See article >

June-July 2011: HERO REU Summer Program

HERO REU Summer program brought in 7 students from around the US and 5 students from Clark University to work in 3 research areas. Click on the PEOPLE drop down on the right of this screen and click on "ALUMNI" for details of these projects.

September 2010: "Ripped from the Headlines" of Clark Home page

HERO research program at Clark thriving; student fellows honored. HERO offers high level research opportunities for undergraduates.
See article and video >

August 2010: HERO students in COMPASS program

The science of communication - Clark students learn how to bridge the gap between science and the media as part of the COMPASS, Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea, program.
Read more >

HERO Object-oriented Lawn Mapping

See the how-to guide for producing <1m lawn maps by the HERO Object-oriented Lawn Mapping for Exploring Suburbia (HOLMES) team.