Meet the Researcher - Elizabeth Morales

Breakout Room: 14

ElizabethMoralesheadshotResearcher Name: Elizabeth Morales
Co-Presenter: Bandhna Bedi, Miia Sula
Title of Research:  Analyzing Differences In Air Pollutant Concentrations Before and During The  COVID-19 Pandemic  
Division Representing: Geosciences
Institution: Edmonds College
Institution Location: Washington State
Home State: Washington State
District Number: 2
Advisor/Mentor: Rachel Wade
Funding Source: N/A

Research Experience:  
Liz Morales is a student at Edmonds College; she is pursuing an associate's degree in Chemical Engineering and will transfer to a university to continue her studies. She has worked as a Social Media, Marketing, and Communications Ambassador for the MESA program at Edmonds College.  Liz has experience researching the area of a car body and its relationship to the drag it experiences by utilizing a wind tunnel and 3D printed cars. She also has experience researching water hardness through titration and the degradation of hydrogen peroxide through UV radiation and temperature change.   

Presentation Experience: 
Liz has some experience presenting her research to academic audiences through undergraduate research symposiums.

Significance of Research:       
This research examined if the COVID-19 shutdown in Washington state affected air pollution levels. Two locations around Puget Sound were selected, Seattle and Olympia/Tacoma. Daily averages of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, PM2.5, and tropospheric ozone were collected for both locations from 2016-2020, including the months from January through August. A linear regression model was built using the 2016 to 2019 data to estimate the monthly averages for 2020 to determine if there was a change in any of the air pollution levels due to the COVID-19 shutdown. This research found that while there was no notable difference in most of the air pollution levels from before, during, and following the COVID-19 shutdown, there was a significant drop in nitrogen dioxide levels at both locations. This finding is consistent with a study done in Wuhan, China, where they also found a decrease in nitrogen dioxide levels during COVID-19. On the other hand, carbon dioxide was showing an increase throughout the year 2020 compared to previous years. The research team will continue to collect data for New York, which executed similar restrictions during COVID-19 as Washington State did, to look for any correlations between different air pollution variables and compare the results found for Puget Sound.  

Uniqueness of Research: 
This research is significant as it is prevalent in our current era with the pressing issue of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic at our hands. Few have gathered the research and data examined. This is a stepping stone to understanding the effect of our carbon footprint and the aftermath of deviating from our regular lifestyles, environmentally speaking.  


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