Students in Clark University’s Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) Program spent their summer break studying air quality and temperature in Worcester’s hottest neighborhood — navigating a so-called “heat island” in Green Island.
Over the past eight weeks, the group, comprising five undergraduates and two doctoral students, monitored air temperature, surface temperature, and ozone concentration in the Green Island neighborhood to determine which streets should be prioritized for tree planting and other green solutions. The very low green canopy has turned Green Island, adjacent to Worcester’s Canal District about a mile from Clark, into the city’s hottest neighborhood, according to Geography Professor John Rogan, who oversees the HERO Program along with Professor Deborah Martin.
“The students found a high concentration of ozone on the streets near I-290 during heatwave days, compared to streets that are further away from I-290,” Rogan said. “The fellows also found that streets are eight to 10 degrees hotter than the standard reported temperature for the city.”
As part of this year’s project, the HERO fellows also used historic maps from Clark’s Burnham Map Library to determine the neighborhood’s vulnerability to flooding and to indicate where wetland water catchment areas were located before the development of downtown Worcester.
On Thursday, they presented their findings to the city to help meet sustainability and resilience goals laid out in the Green Worcester Plan. The HERO fellows worked closely with city officials throughout the summer, including Conservation Planner Stefanie Covino, M.S./ES&P ’15, Senior Planner Michelle Smith ’11, M.A./CDP ’12, Sustainability Project Manager Luba Zhaurova, and City Energy and Asset Management Division Manager John Odell.
“The goal is to carry out projects of significance that can make a direct impact on the livability of neighborhoods that are being constantly flooded during these flash storm events and becoming very hot during heat waves,” Rogan explains. “Now the city has a very clear indication of what areas in Green Island to focus on. Solutions to both of these problems come from adapting the pavement and some of the streets to redirect runoff. Shade trees are also an important component, as they help prevent heat-wave temperatures.”
The HERO team was led by geography doctoral students Nicholas Geron and Marc Healy, whose mentorship was instrumental in guiding data collection and analysis, according to Rogan. Undergraduate fellows include Apple Gould-Schultz ’23, Sarah Hughes ’23, Madeline Regenye ’22, Caleigh McLaren ’22, and David Henriques ’22.