Research 'HEROs' honored

November 22, 2009

Clark University recently honored four students who were selected to become members of its 2009-2010 Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) Fellowship program. Clark President John Bassett presented the awards at the annual fall dinner reception for outstanding students

Initiated at the Graduate School of Geography at Clark, the HERO research program provides opportunities for students to analyze the causes and consequences of global environmental changes at local scales in faculty-led research projects. The HERO program awards summer fellowships to selected undergraduates to engage in data collection and research with faculty on local environmental change and to undertake a yearlong HERO Fellows seminar.

Abigail R. Kaminski '11, of Reading, PA, is the 2009-10 Mosakowski HERO Fellow. She is majoring in economics, with a probable second major in geography. As a member of the social science section of the HERO project, Kaminski focuses on studying links between the land use associated with suburbanization and resource use.

"As this year's Mosakowski HERO Fellow, Abby is learning to integrate a wide range of materials--from zoning bylaws to surveying research results to land-cover data. I expect that this project will be a great introduction to the complexities of public policy decision-making," said Jim Gomes, director of the Mosakowski Institute.

The Mosakowski Institute is dedicated to improving the effectiveness of government and other institutions in addressing social concerns through the successful mobilization of use-inspired research.

Kaminski is the second Clark student to be supported by the Mosakowski Fellows Program. Timothy Hamill '10 of Scarborough, ME, Brenna M. Schwert '10 of East Northport, NY, and Timothy "Max" Wright '10, of Greenwich, CT, have been named 2009-10 O'Connor HERO Fellows.

The fellowship is named for the late Clark University Trustee John O'Connor (Class of '78) who was a prominent Massachusetts environmentalist and community activist.

Hamill is working on a multi-institutional and inter-disciplinary National Science Foundation-funded project with professors Colin Polsky and Robert Gilmore Pontius Jr. to understand the social drivers of suburbanization and the associated ecological implications. Hamill is implementing a newly-refined methodology to map lawns and trees using high-resolution imagery, the results of which may be viewable publicly using tools such as GoogleEarth.

Schwert and Wright are a part of the HERO Massachusetts Forest Monitoring Program (MaFoMP) the focus of which is to characterize Massachusetts land-cover from 1973 to the present at approximately five-year intervals using remotely sensed data and GIS variables. The maps Schwert and Wright are involved in creating can be used by policy makers, environmental managers, and conservation biologists to derive information regarding the patterns and processes that govern land-cover change in Massachusetts.

HERO program sponsors include the National Science Foundation, National Marine Fisheries Service, Thoreau Foundation, and O'Connor '78 Fund.

Professor Polsky, of the Graduate School of Geography and George Perkins Marsh Institute is principal investigator for "Suburbanization, Water Use, Nitrogen Cycling, and Eutrophication in the 21st Century: Interactions, Feedbacks, and Uncertainties in a Massachusetts Coastal Zone," a research project supported by a $1.4-million grant from the National Science Foundation. He serves as faculty advisor to Kaminski. To learn more, visit the HERO program online.