In 2014, a group of Franklin Institute volunteers led by Environmental Scientist Raluca Ellis started an ozone garden behind the museum in a space called Science Park. My name is Miriam Sachs, and I am one of those volunteers.
When we started, the space we are using was so overgrown that some called it a jungle. Over the course of weeks, we removed every unwanted plant, added new topsoil, and planted new plants (including coneflowers, milkweed, and snap beans). Why these plants? And what is an ozone garden?
You may have heard of something called the ozone layer, located in the stratosphere. It protects us from the stronger, more harmful UV rays that come from the sun. We will explain how in future posts. Up in the stratosphere, the ozone is needed, but ozone can also exist near the ground. This ground-level ozone, which is formed from car exhaust or other pollutants reacting with each other in the air), can damage our organs if we breathe in large amounts. Lower amounts of ozone damage plants, and we can observe visual damage on the leaves of plants that are ozone sensitive. This is the basis of our project. We want to track the leaf damage, compare the data to the amount of ozone in the air (which we monitor with a machine), and inform people about ground-level ozone.
Now, we will tell the story of our garden with posts every Friday.