Hello, I am Benjamin Lockwood pursuing my Biology Transfer degree at STCC with the goal of becoming a doctor. It was a privilege to join the Citizen Science program offered by STCC’s STEM Starter Academy this Spring. It was a 10-week program with the objective to engage STCC students in science and use our collective thinking to identify research questions, collect and analyze data, interpret results, and develop solutions to environmental challenges in Springfield, MA. I was excited to connect with my peers during the pandemic when we were feeling secluded. I made several friends and contacts through this program. There were 22 students in my class from varied STEM majors and we participated in zoom lectures and discussions every Wednesday afternoons. I particularly enjoyed our weekly break out room discussions.
What I liked about the Citizen Science program is all the opportunities that it brought to me. Professor David Bloniarz did an incredible job teaching the class about how lack of trees affect urbanized areas. He is also the President of Regreen Springfield, and his work is very inspiring. Through volunteering with him he showed me many aspects of underdeveloped neighborhoods that I never would’ve experienced. The connections made through the Citizen Science academy will help me in my ultimate goal of joining the medical field. Every week we learned something new, allowing me to see the connection between our actions and consequences in our urban areas. During class we went over challenges and opportunities for people and natural resources in Springfield MA. We also learned how to collect and analyze data, conduct research, and format our findings in a clear, informative poster for both the Sustainathon competition and UMASS Undergraduate Research Conference.
The topics that were covered in the program were relevant and very interesting. We learned about pioneer valley climate action and clean energy plan with emphasis towards moving toward a carbon neutral future. Some of the other interesting topics that we studied were:
- The importance of adapting and planning to create resilient communities and natural resources management in Springfield.
- We studied urban natural resources processes and relationships: carbon, hydrology, weather, climate, and vegetation.
- Urban Tree canopy and land cover change: aerial assessment tools (i-Tree tools)
- Mapping the urban forest: exploration of tools and options to map, analyze and communicate natural resources spatially.
- Field based assessment: monitoring and analysis of community trees and forests.
- We also learnt essential soft skills such as listening, flexibility, collaboration, critical thinking, positive attitude, effective writing, and teamwork. It was exciting and fun to present our research findings in both STCC’s Sustainathon event and at UMASS URC.
This class has changed my perspective of our community challenges in a way I never expected and has evoked a desire to be part of the solution in my community. I thank STEM Starter Academy at STCC and my professor Bloniarz for this incredible opportunity. I would take the class again and would also recommend it to anyone in the STEM field as it offers another valuable perspective on science-solved issues.