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College Town.

Byline: Lisa D. Welsh


Not for the birds

Television isn't just for entertainment anymore - The History Channel, National Geographic and Animal Planet, for example, offer programs that enlighten and inform, so it's

not surprising the experts include the occasional Central Massachusetts resource.

Last week on the History Channel, the work of Leon Claessens, assistant professor of biology at the College of the Holy Cross was featured. Over the summer, Mr. Claessens took part in the filming of an episode of the new History Channel series "Evolve," in which he presented some of his research on bird breathing and flight.

"It is both challenging and rewarding to be able to translate specialized scientific research to a format that reaches such a broad audience," he said. "Especially when working with live birds, who might have different opinions about following the documentary script."

Mr. Claessens' work has also gained the attention of the National Science Foundation, which recently awarded him a grant of $497,735, for a project titled "Aves 3D: An Online Database of Three-dimensional Avian Skeletal Morphology (RUI)." Scott V. Edwards, professor of biology at Harvard University, will also work on the project, which helps researchers understand the relationship between the anatomy of the breastbone in birds and flight.

The award will be used to create a 3-D online database of digital scans of the various bones in the skeleton of living, recently extinct and fossil birds. The scans will be done with specialized equipment by undergraduate students at Holy Cross.

Zippitty do da

You may have seen the city's most recent campus-driven accessible and green-friendly way to get around. Worcester Polytechnic Institute has partnered with Zipcar, the world's largest provider of cars on demand to provide its faculty, staff and students an environmentally friendly alternative to keeping a car on campus.

Two self-service Zipcars - both 2008 Honda Civic hybrids - are available for use 24 hours a day, seven days a week, parked along the campus Quadrangle. The cars will be available to all staff and students aged 18 and older, with gas, maintenance, insurance and reserved parking included in low hourly and daily rates. WPI Faculty, staff, and students will be able to join Zipcar for $35 and will have access to them for $7 per hour or $60 per day. All members who are over the age of 21 also have access to Zipcar's network of more than 5,000 vehicles throughout the UK and North America.

"At WPI, we are aware of the impact our students' transportation choices have on our campus, the Worcester community, and the environment as a whole," said Janet Begin Richardson, vice president for student affairs and campus life.

"By partnering with Zipcar, we have one more tool in our kit to encourage students to leave their personally owned vehicles at home during the school year, while teaching them to make sustainable transportation choices that we hope will extend beyond their college years."

Visit for more information about membership and hourly rates.

More green news

The National Wildlife Federation Report Card ranks Quinsigamond Community College among 14 schools in Massachusetts as having exemplary levels of environmental sustainability activities. Overall, Massachusetts is ranked eighth in the country.

The Campus Environment 2008 Report Card is the comprehensive look at nationwide trends in sustainability among America's institutions of higher education. The report card, which covers programs at 1,068 institutions, recognizes colleges and universities for exemplary performance and awards academic letter grades (A through D) for national performance on a broad range of conservation issues. These issues include energy, water, transportation, landscaping, waste reduction, environmental literacy and compares findings with the previous study conducted in 2001.

Campuses in the survey, conducted in partnership with Princeton Survey Research Associates International, are not graded or ranked on an individual basis; rather, the survey analyzes collective trends in the areas of management, operations, and academics. .

The study also reveals trends, including:

The most prevalent environmental initiative is water conservation, versus recycling in 2001.

Conserving energy is 2008's most popular performance goal, versus the 2001 goal of upping environmental performance in new buildings.

The biggest green opportunity colleges are missing is adequate education about sustainability for their students.

Funding is the biggest obstacle to expanding environmental and sustainability programming, versus the "other priorities" cited.

More than 18 million students are enrolled in over 4,000 American colleges and universities researchers say provide a tremendous opportunity to nurture sustainability practices and develop a new generation of environmental leaders.

For more information, visit

The (seven) hills are alive ...

... with the sound of children's music as Assumption College welcomes the newly formed Worcester Children's Chorus. Directed by Jennifer Kane and Malcolm Halliday, the Worcester Children's Chorus, formerly the Master Singers Youth Chorus, will rehearsal Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on campus, beginning Wednesday.

The new chorus remains under the auspices of the Master Singers of Worcester.

Auditions are open to children in Grades 5-12 in the greater Worcester area who have an interest in choral singing.

"We are very pleased to work with community organizations and support efforts that align with the educational mission of Assumption College," said Francesco Cesareo, president of the college. "The Worcester Children's Chorus is a valuable organization that helps youngsters enhance their natural skills and educates them in musical traditions that expand their horizons."

Repertoire will draw from many cultures, ethnic groups, time periods and faiths, and include both secular and sacred music, from early music to modern and contemporary music. The chorus will debut its 2008-09 season with a performance (with orchestra) at the Master Singers of Worcester's opening concert

Oct. 19.

To schedule an audition or to learn more about the chorus, tuition and financial aid, call the Worcester Children's Chorus at (508) 767-7077.

Mushrooming mushrooms

David Hibbett, associate professor of biology at Clark University, studies evolutionary biology and ecology of fungi, principally Basidiomycota (mushroom-forming fungi). According to Mr. Hibbett, "this has been a banner year for mushrooms, which are fruiting bodies of fungi. The heavy rains have increased the abundance of mushrooms in the woods and gardens in Massachusetts."

"Generally, there is no reason for homeowners to be worried about mushrooms popping up in their lawns," he says. "A very few cause plant diseases or are poisonous, but most are beneficial recyclers of nutrients. For his faculty Web page, visit; for his lab page, visit

Contact Lisa D. Welsh via e-mail at
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Sep 7, 2008
Previous Article:Eateries get the old college try; College Shuffle off to restaurant row.

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