St. Edward’s TOPP research team takes over El Paso, TX

The Tropospheric Ozone Pollution Project (TOPP) came to the Hilltop last year with its first weather balloon launch on July 30th. These weather balloons provide a vertical profile of ozone; data collected will help assess sources and concentrations of ozone in the Central Texas, which can lead to better approaches for solving poor air quality issues.  Ozone is a reactive atmospheric trace gas that when present near the surface negatively impacts plant growth, crop yields, and human health.  The research team is made up of 17 St. Edward’s students and led by Dean of Natural Sciences Gary A. Morris, with help from Assistant Professor of Physics Paul Walter and Research Assistant Mark Spychala.

Dr. Morris has coordinated balloon launches since 2004 from Texas, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania in the U.S. as well as from Panama, Japan, and Costa Rica. So far there have been 23 weather balloon launches from the St. Edward’s campus in Austin. This May, San Antonio and El Paso, TX will be added to the list of Texas locations!  Through a partnership with New Mexico State University and the University of Texas at El Paso, the St. Edward’s TOPP team will be running and attending a workshop in El Paso. The El Paso program consists of 56 weather balloon flights from May to September! Ana Quevedo, MSEM '18, will be staying in El Paso as the lead graduate student for the project. Data collected with the help of the St. Edward’s team will help El Paso find the right solutions for their air pollution problems. The San Antonio project also runs from May to September.  In partnership with the University of Houston, Baylor, and the University of Texas San Antonio, TOPP will assist with 80 balloon launches.  The goal of this project is to better understand local and remote influences on air quality in San Antonio.

Good luck to the TOPP team and have fun with your research!

By Ana Quevedo MSEM ‘18, Sustainability Graduate Assistant