WORCESTER. Mass. - Faculty, scholars and students from Clark University's Graduate School of Geography are studying how trees impact the climate around where they grow.

As one student tells us, planting the right trees in the right places is important, and her research is making a positive impact in a Western Massachusetts community.

Rachel Corcoran-Adams chose to analyze the surface urban heat island in Chicopee for her graduate project at Clark University.

"I really wanted to compare these zones in Chicopee as a gateway city, which means that the city has a median household income well below the state average, as well as an education level below the state average and has high percentages of residents with English isolation and minority status,” said Corcoran-Adams, MS GIS Student at Clark University.

Corcoran-Adams started her research in 2018 by measuring trees in Chicopee. She looked at about 1,000 trees and interviewed residents and foresters.

Her findings show where the city could benefit from planting new trees.

"What's really important to think is what neighborhoods could benefit the most from shade and lower temperatures because, as we know, lower temperatures in the summer means less bills for cooling costs and overall helps with mental health in the area and it's shown to reduce crime, etc.,” said Corcoran-Adams. 

Trees planted a few years ago in nearby Holyoke have had impacts on the temperature in their neighborhood, so they are expecting to see similar results in Chicopee.

Nicholas A.B. Geron, PhD, Student and Teaching Assistant assisted with the project and helped facilitate the research. 

"This tree planting has a big aspect of reducing energy use and making these cities sustainable. Research like rachel's shines light on how far we have to go and how unequal some of the heat distribution is,” Geron said. 

Corcoran-Adams added she is happy she was able to do this project. She said, "I think that it's really, really great that I'm able to do this work and that I have the privilege to be able to do it. You know, I pay money to an institution that gives me the opportunities that I have."

Corcoran-Adams is set to get her master’s degree in GIS in June.