SLV featured environmental monitoring project: Atmospheric Monitoring

Of the many exciting opportunities afforded to SLV students, the environmental monitoring projects are in their own category. These different student projects monitor different aspects of our local environment. Each project is conducted under the watchful eye of science teacher Ms. Orbuch, and are extracurricular activities. The students who are involved in these projects put in hours of work before, during, and after school. Some of the projects focus on specific animals, weather patterns, river conditions, or water quality, and each one

A weather balloon similar to those used in the project
A weather balloon similar to those used in the project

has a specific purpose in mind when they are conducting their research. Each of these projects are funded by grants and conducted with the help of mentors.

One of the projects is Atmospheric Monitoring, a project that has been conducted by Connor Lydon and Natalie Gallagher for the past few years.  When asked about the main point of their research, Lydon replied that “ The health of the atmosphere directly affects the health of humanity and all other life on planet earth.”

Lydon and Gallagher said that they are looking at certain health problems caused by a particular pollutant that can cause respiratory problems. It is largely prevalent to the Environmental Protection Agency’s “healthy” atmospheric levels and is monitored through data collected from local hospitals and clinics, by testing hospital visitors for respiratory issues side by side with particulate matter concentrations. They are also looking to see how El Niño will affect atmospheric inversion patterns in locally, and to research other ways El Niño manipulates the lower atmosphere above SLV.

Lydon and Gallagher collect their data by launching weather balloons from the school, as they have done in previous years.

In the early stages of their research, Lydon and Gallagher began by looking at how dramatic of an effect atmospheric inversions have on particulate matter concentrations above SLV.

The second year of their project analyzed the data more with the inclusion of a virtual potential temperature. This further allowed for increased accuracy in their data as it removed atmospheric vapor pressure from being an uncontrolled variable in their results, which could have led to incorrect data interpretations.

Gallagher and Lydon
Gallagher and Lydon

Lydon says that this was one of his best high school experiences so far, and that the best part is that his project allows him to participate, not only as a student, but as a contributor to the community and to society. He also claims that the hardest part of this project is the amount of time it takes, as he says, “At times Natalie and I have to spend many hours collecting data, analyzing this data, etc. Especially in the first year, my partner and I had to get to the school before anyone, and had to get the janitors to open the science building so we could collect data early in the morning. We then had to repeat this process in the afternoon. In just this one year, Natalie and I spent over 350 hours each on the project.”

Both Lydon and Gallagher, and all of the students doing  an environmental monitoring projects, have put in a lot of time and effort to obtain their data. Each one of these groups are making contributions to science and to our society. If you are interested in participating in an environmental monitoring project next year, listen for announcements or contact Ms. Orbuch for more information.

-Amanda Rinnert

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