Associate Professor of Physical and Earth Science Allison Dunn, Ph.D., received a NASA grant, in collaboration with Boston University, to continue her research project on 4-D modeling of the regional carbon cycle in and around urban environments. It will support the continuation of high-precision, continuous measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Through the grant, Worcester State University will continue to participate as an observational station that measures, models and verifies carbon accounting along the urban-rural gradient from Boston to Petersham. WSU’s station sits atop the Ghosh Science and Technology Center.
Collaborators include Boston University, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and Harvard University. $45,000 from the grant will support Dunn’s work at WSU.
Dunn, who earned her doctorate in earth and planetary sciences from Harvard University, has been researching climate change’s effects on trees in Harvard Forest since 1996, when she was a graduate student. She measures the diameter of trees in two sections of the forest—one a grove of young white ash, black cherry and red maple trees that sprouted naturally after the area was clear-cut in 1990, and the other a grove of red pine planted in 1925—to track and compare their carbon dioxide intake. When classes are in session, Dunn brings a student along to help.
In the classroom, Dunn engages her students in hands-on learning that is related to the world around them. “About 50 percent of my time in advanced classes is devoted to hands-on activities,” she says. “Students analyze real scientific data concerning biogeography, weather, climate change, and other current events. They see how concepts we cover in the classroom apply to the real world.”
Climate is of particular concern to Dunn, who says, “Evidence of climate change is incontrovertible. The big question is whether we will find the political will to address the problem.”
She hopes that as students become knowledgeable about the causes and effects of climate change, they will actively engage in the process of finding solutions.
“My research uses principles from the geosciences, biology, and chemistry to understand the terrestrial carbon cycle,” Dunn explains. “My areas of focus include ecosystem response to climate, urbanization effects on carbon fluxes and pools, and how forest management affects atmospheric carbon sequestration. Much of my research is locally based and designed to facilitate undergraduate student participation.”
“My teaching focuses on engaging students with the process of science,” she adds. “I do so through data-driven and case-based approaches towards scientific investigation and writing projects emphasizing critical analysis of data and literature.”
About the Photo: Geography majors Nicole Volk ’14 of Westminster and Ron Salmonson ’14 of Dudley joined Dunn on a field visit to a forest grove along Mugget Hill Road in Charlton on July 17, 2013. They assisted with tree measurements and gathering soil samples for analysis back at Worcester State’s biology lab.
Beyond the Classroom
Students Present at 18th Statewide Undergrad Research Conference
On Friday, April 27, 2012, eight Worcester State University students presented their research at the 18th Annual Massachusetts Statewide Undergraduate Research Conference at UMass Amherst. Two . . .