Air Quality during California’s Stay-At-Home Period
By Kim DiPasquale

Hello fellow Naturalists and Citizen Scientists. I would like to introduce you to a great opportunity to help with a research project that is being conducted by the University of California, Irvine and the University of California, Riverside. The purpose of the study is to evaluate the effects of California’s stay at home order on our air quality. I’m sure that you noticed a significant decrease in traffic during the first few months of the COVID 19 pandemic. Scientists at UCI and UCR will be measuring the isotopic composition of carbon in several species of invasive annual grasses in order to estimate fossil fuel consumption and its relationship to air quality during our stay at home period.

To participate in this study all you have to do is collect invasive grass specimens and mail them to Dr. Claudia Czimczik at UCI (see her address below). The plants being used in this study are known as Ripgut and Cheatgrass which are both in the Bromus genus, and Wild or Slender oats from the Avena genus. These weeds are truly everywhere but are most commonly found in open fields and along roadways; especially in disturbed soils.

Just find a specimen, cut it off at the base, roll the grass blades into a circle, place it in a paper envelope, and mail it to UCI. Please include a piece of paper with the name of the plant or your best guess, the date you collected the plant, and the location. Be as specific as possible about the location. Do not place the plant in a plastic bag because this will likely cause an issue with mold. Specimens will be collected throughout the state so this will be a solid piece of research.

The iNaturalist smart phone app is a useful resource for identifying both invasive and native grasses, using artificial intelligence to identify from a picture. For the best results, make sure the picture is clear and focused and the plant you are trying to identify contrasts with the background.

Mail the envelope to: KCCAMS/ESS c/o C. Czimczik, 2222B Croul Hall, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, Ca. 92697-3100.

If you have any questions about plant identification, you can email me at kimdipasquale@gmail.com.

Watch these videos to see what these invasive grasses look like, where to find them and how to collect them: