Students and Scientists Take a “Lichen” to Air Quality Assessment in Ireland

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During the eighties second level students in Ireland were involved in the primary acquisition of data for scientists assessing air quality. The techniques and methodology devised by the scientists were pilot tested in Cork city in 1982. These included mapping lichen and leaf yeast distributions, and measuring acidity of precipitation. Local teachers were contacted about participating in the project. The teachers attended seminars on the techniques to be used, were supplied with background information, and were provided with the scientific equipment to conduct the survey. Following the success of the pilot project, other areas in the country were surveyed for air quality with the cooperation of students and teachers. In 1988, the research team from An Foras Forbartha and Trinity College Dublin collaborated with over 100 secondary science teachers and their students to assess the air quality of the Greater Dublin area. After the completion of each survey members of the team visited the schools, discussed the results with the teachers and students, and presented them with a copy of the final report. For various reasons the research team could not conduct further studies. However, some students in the cooperating schools did continue and have presented their findings over a number of years at a national student science competition. In addition, the survey methodologies are expected to reappear as part of a new second level curricular reform in Ireland.

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