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Center for Air Quality

 May 5, 2008


Center for Air Quality

 May 5, 2008

Ohio University's Center for Air Quality conducts comprehensive air quality research that supports Ohio and other Midwest states in their efforts to comply with increasingly tighter air quality standards. The Center serves as an integrated research and analysis entity whose work supports governmental agencies, city governments, universities, companies, and industries; helping the region to understand its air pollution and improve its air quality.

The Center for Air Quality is led by faculty members and professional staff that work closely with a team of Ohio University undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students from various departments. This interdisciplinary approach results in high quality data and analysis while providing students with applied learning opportunities that enhance their education.

While the Center's research is integrated, the main work can be divided into two main areas: 1) monitoring and 2) modeling and data analysis.

The monitoring group maintains and operates the Athens Super Site, an air quality monitoring station in Athens, Ohio. This site is equipped with twenty-three devices that measure pollutant concentrations and movements, as well as air and weather patterns which provide a snapshot of air pollution in
the southeast Ohio region. The monitoring group is especially interested in examining wet and dry mercury deposition and determining the effects it may be having on watersheds and forest environments.

The modeling and data analysis group develops complicated models that simulate the physical and chemical processes air pollutants undergo when released into the atmosphere. Meteorological data and emissions rates are used to model the transport, emissions, and dispersion of criteria, particulate, and toxic pollutants. Statistical analysis is also used to evaluate meteorological parameters, trends of regional and local air pollution patterns, and the long-range transport of air pollutants. Additionally, statistical techniques are used to apportion and characterize air plumes to identify source location and types of pollutants and toxics, including small particulates (such as PM 2.5) and volatile organic compounds The photochemical models and characterization play a significant role in policy development and assessment of regulatory actions; helping understand the possible effectiveness of
specific pollution controls. This analysis is critical to the development of State Implementation Plans (SIPs) that are used to plan for how regions will address noncompliance with federal air quality standards. Going forward, this work will also play a significant role in studying the effects of
sustainability programs on air quality.

The involvement of students is critical to the Center's success. Stephen Busam, a fourth-year civil engineering student, is part of the monitoring group that measures mercury levels at the Athens Super Site. As part of the group, Busam has aided in the development of standards that will be used by a new dry mercury deposition national monitoring network. He says that he values the hands-on experience and understanding he has gained at the monitoring site.

Dan Laubenthal is a fourth-year meteorology student who has helped to develop and refine the air quality models. With an impending future career in the air quality field, he, too, values his experience with the Center for Air Quality. "In order to make a difference," Laubenthal explained, "one must
conduct research that is grounded in reality."

The work by students at the Center for Air Quality, like Busam and Laubenthal, is nothing if not grounded in reality. They are helping with the Center's monitoring, modeling, and analysis; work that is critical to understanding the region's air pollution and to finding ways to address this pollution that both improve air quality and support regional economic prosperity.

For more information, visit the Center for Air Quality website.

To see photos of the site, click here.