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Ozone Monitoring in Your Backyard

by Beth Fetterley and Jim McGinty

The Wisconsin DNR has developed a novel method of monitoring air pollution called “Where’s the Air?” Common plants can be used to determine the levels of ozone in your neighborhood. Ozone reacts with the photo-synthetically active tissues of plants, leaving a distinct mark on the upper surface of the leaves of certain common plants. Photosynthetic cells, the part of the plant that converts sunlight into glucose, are found in green leaves. Ozone damage has three primary characteristics: it looks like small black to dark purple spots with distinct edges, called ‘stipples’; it is found only interveinally, or between the veins of the leaf; and it is located only on the upper surface of the leaf. These characteristics can be found on many plants including milkweed, grape, blackberry, big leaf aster, hog peanut, and soy. Many teachers in Wisconsin have been participating in a DNR classroom biomonitoring program. The program uses milkweed plants to detect air pollution. Participating classrooms provide valuable plant injury data to the DNR’s Air Management biomonitoring unit and then receive direct results concerning local air quality. Interested teachers can contact the DNR’s Air Education program to learn about teacher training workshops in our area (608-266-5215). Teachers that go through the training receive a “Where’s the Air?” kit which includes a curriculum with 11 different activities, a poster, and an interactive CD-ROM. If you would like to learn more about spotting ozone damage, visit the center in Riverside Park on Bartlett Avenue south of Locust Street. We have samples of leaves with damage, provided to us by the Wisconsin DNR. Also, you can join our family program, “Good Up High, Bad Nearby: Ozone Monitoring.” It will be held Saturday, August 3, from 2 to 4 pm. Call the Urban Ecology Center at 964-8505 for more information. Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 6 – July 2002
by Beth Fetterley and Jim McGinty