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Avery Point Campus to collect data for global environmental study

by Michael Kirk - March 23, 2009


UConn’s Avery Point Campus will be one site in a global environmental study designed to collect pollution readings from points throughout the world for the Global Atmospheric Passive Sampling (GAPS) Network. The network and the study are backed by the United Nations and are being carried out by Environment Canada – the Canadian meteorological service.

A free-standing dome-shaped device called a passive air sampler was placed at Avery Point in February. It requires no electricity and minimal maintenance, so that in addition to developed areas such as Connecticut, it can be placed in remote locations that normally would be difficult to sample. The network will provide valuable pollution data for climate scientists.

Penny Vlahos, an assistant professor of marine sciences and chemistry at Avery Point, was instrumental in the campus being selected as one of the collection points.

“This technology will not only contribute to a global study on existing pollution levels around the world, but can also give us a great deal of information about the air quality right here in Connecticut and over Long Island Sound,” she says.

The air sampler will be located at Avery Point for the next several years, and samples will be collected at three-month intervals

The GAPS network began in December 2004 and includes more than 60 sites on all seven continents.

The device contains a compound that determines the level of contaminants, such as pesticides, in the air, with the goal of investigating concentrations of persistent organic pollutants in the atmosphere.

“Part of what this will do is fill in the gaps in information that existed previously because of the logistical difficulty in measuring pollutants in places with less infrastructure,” says Vlahos.

The study will also measure emerging pollutants, such as new organic compounds that are introduced into global markets or their breakdown products that may also persist in the environment and accumulate in living organisms.

“This will enable us to have a fuller, more accurate picture of earth’s pollution levels,” says Vlahos, “and to take appropriate action in the management of persistent organic pollutants.”

Penny Vlahos, assistant professor of marine sciences and chemistry.

Penny Vlahos, assistant professor of marine sciences and chemistry. Photo supplied by Penny Vlahos


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