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Examining Human-Environment Relationships in Massachusetts

Each year, the Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) program provides funding for a cohort of select undergraduate students to engage in research on human-environment relationships in Massachusetts. For eight weeks during the summer, HERO Fellows conduct hands-on research under the mentorship of Clark University faculty and graduate students.

2022_HERO2022 HERO Fellows (left to right): Nicole Buckley, Charlotte Zieselman, Lucy Fleming, Danielle Hall, Nicholas Geron (graduate mentor), Shradha Birdika, Apple Gould-Schultz (graduate mentor), and Madeline Regenye (graduate mentor)




As part of their research, Hero Fellows:

  • Present their findings in July to stakeholders from the local, state, and federal governments.
  • Continue assessing their research in the following academic year.
  • Present their research at academic conferences and campus-wide student research fairs.
  • Collaborate with faculty and graduate students to publish their research.

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Current Research

HERO fellows are working with Groundwork Rhode Island, a community-based organization, to build healthier, more resilient, and more equitable urban communities. During the summer of 2022, students surveyed tree health and local temperature and air quality conditions in environmental justice neighborhoods in Providence, Central Falls and Cumberland (RI). Interviews with residents revealed positive perceptions of tree benefits for air quality and aesthetics, as well as support for more tree planting. Students are continuing to analyze data and will report their results at ClarkFEST, the university’s forum for highlighting undergraduate research.

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Past Research

Over the past two decades, HERO Fellows working with faculty have:

  • Conducted a tree health inventory and stakeholder stewardship assessment in former factory cities as part of the Massachusetts’ Greening the Gateway Cities initiative, partnering with the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation.
  • Assessed the impact of the Asian long-horned beetle invasion, partnering with the Worcester Tree Initiative, state Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Collaborated with the Massachusetts Forest Monitoring Program (MAFoMP) to apply remote sensing data and technology to monitor large-area forest cover change in Massachusetts.
  • Conducted a vulnerability assessment to explore interactions among suburbanization, climate change, and land and water policies, at scales of the household, town, and region. Students examined how to develop, use, and evaluate GIS-based computer models that simulate how humans change landscapes.


Current Cohort of Students

The cohort of undergraduate students will be announced later in the spring.

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How to Apply

The HERO program is based in the Graduate School of Geography, with support from the George Perkins Marsh Institute. Students apply in February.

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Contact Information

George Perkins Marsh Institute

Office Location
  • Mailing Address:
    950 Main Street
    Worcester, MA 01610-1477

  • Visiting address:
    16 Claremont Street
    Worcester, MA 01610-1477

  • 1-508-751-4622
  • 1-508-751-4600 FAX