Clearing the Air

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Merck Fellow Juliana Porter ’12 and Alexandra Buckley, a Davidson Research Initiative fellow from Johnson C. Smith University,

Since 1990, the city of Charlotte and surrounding areas (including Davidson) have undergone some of the greatest population growth in the U.S. With that comes the good (economic growth), the bad (increased density of rush-hour tra c), and the ugly (some of the worst air pollution in the nation).

Responding to community concern, atmospheric chemist Cindy Hauser has tackled the issue since 2005. “Our air quality projects have been community driven,” explained Hauser, an associate professor of chemistry at Davidson. “We received a number of calls from people and agencies concerned about air pollution. The topics they raise generate student interest, and we study them as we can. Advocacy groups raise awareness, and we do the science.”

This past summer, Hauser and two undergraduate research fellows collaborated on research with the Center for the Environment (CFE) at Catawba College.

Citizen volunteers from a seven-county area across the Carolinas used passive air samplers to monitor ozone and nitrogen oxide concentrations. Then the CFE gave the sample to Hauser’s lab. Merck Fellow Juliana Porter ’12 and Alexandra Buckley, a Davidson Research Initiative fellow from Johnson C. Smith University, analyzed the samplers. They found that air quality in surrounding counties is not dissimilar to that found in Mecklenburg County.

Hauser says it’s too early to tell if regional air quality is improving, but she hopes that continued collaboration between her lab and the CFE will help educate and lead the public to positive change.

— Cathryn Westra

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