Wednesday, December 23, 2009

4th grader wows scientists with her artificial vs. natural turf research study

Which is more environmentally friend, artificial grass or living grass?

Schools and communities across the United States are debating the issue because of the growing popularity of synthetic turf on sports fields, home lawns and other areas formerly covered by turfgrass. Proponents of both point to the many “green” benefits of their respective type of grass. The stakes, environmental and financial, are high because of the tens of millions of acres of turfgrass on our home lawns, parks, sports fields, commercial and industrial properties.

So, who’s right? The synthetic crowd that pounds on the fact that their grass doesn’t need fertilizers, pesticides, mowing or water? (Although it would be foolish to install synthetic turf without a ready source of water to clean it or, in the case of sports fields, cool it.) Or the proponents of real, living grass who promote the heat-mitigating, dust-capturing, runoff-capturing benefits of real grass?

Along comes 9-year-old, 4th grade student by the name of Claire Dworsky and she nails it. With the help of research professor Adina Payton of UC Santa Cruz, she puts together an incredible research project comparing the two surfaces.

“As I soccer player and environmentalist, I looked down and I see the runoff water off the turf is murky,” Claire told KGO-TV science reporter Carolyn Johnson in a recent interview. Claire collected water samples from grass and artificial turf fields (hundreds of them from both) across San Francisco, then she and Dr. Payton analyzed the findings in the lab.

In addition to sharing her findings with San Francisco officials considering whether or not to build synthetic fields in the city, she was the lead author of a poster presentation at a recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union, which drew scientists from every corner of the globe.

Click here to access the KGO-TV article and several video clips about Clair. When you get to the site, check out the boxed sidebar and click on the links to pdf of the poster she put together.

In a word — fantastic.

You go girl! — Ron Hall

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