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Oswald, students take part in innovative Boston eco-study

Ever wonder about that camera on the top of the Walker Building? Why is it there? What is it filming? Does it have anything to do with Big Brother?

Assistant Professor Wyatt Oswald of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders had the camera installed for a project far more noble—namely, the creation of the Boston Common Digital Arboretum, an effort that may provide important information about local ecology, as well as help expand the liberal arts opportunities for Emerson students.

The Boston Common Digital Arboretum uses both the work of the camera and the brainpower of his Emerson students. An image is taken from the camera every 30 minutes and run through software to quantify the “greenness” of the image, or to see when and how quickly the seasons wax and wane. Oswald believes that the arrival of spring—or increasingly green images—will arrive earlier and earlier in the coming years, indicating a warming trend. So far, the project has resulted in a series of short films and podcasts by his students that are available alongside visuals of the Common on Google Maps.

view of the boston commons and emerson college

The Boston Common

Oswald has put the talents of his students to work through his scientific endeavors; as the Boston Common Digital Arboretum project expands and generates new data, Oswald’s students are there every step of the way to report on and synthesize the information the camera receives on climate change in the area. He is hoping to keep the project funded and running for years to come, not only to verify his scientific theories, but to incorporate the experiment into his science curriculum.

Emerson students are excited about studying the ecology of Boston Common, said Oswald, “especially when they recognize the relevance of the topic to society and our daily lives.”

Oswald hopes to continue expanding science-oriented opportunities at Emerson in order to give the student body a fresh perspective and even source material for their own creative endeavors. “Emerson students are so talented,” he concluded, “and when you point them in the direction of an interesting opportunity, they can do amazing things.”

View the progress of both the Boston Common Digital Arboretum and the student films and podcasts»


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