Find Posts By Topic

Duwamish Youth Participate in Air Pollution Science Project

Duwamish Valley teens recently partnered with local scientists to gauge the success of urban greening efforts with the help of an unlikely ally: moss! Though often overlooked, moss has proven to be an effective tool in assessing regional air quality. Duwamish Valley Youth Corps (DVYC) members are learning how to collect samples for testing and using these new skills to benefit their community.

Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment is a partner in the Green Duwamish Learning Landscape (GDLL). GDLL is a collaborative effort between several local and federal organizations, alongside the Duwamish Valley community, that is working to collect information evaluating the effects of urban greening efforts while monitoring change over time in the Duwamish River Watershed.

Air quality in the Duwamish Valley is poor and the City is always open to partnering with the community to make improvements. This project trains DVYC members to participate in a community-led science effort using moss from street trees in South Park and Georgetown to monitor air pollution. Twenty DVYC youth are learning scientific protocols to collect and prepare moss samples for analysis. The end goal is to identify specific hotspots and actions to mitigate air pollution impacts on the community.

There is a long history of using moss as an inexpensive screening tool to assess areas beset by heavy metal air pollution. Unlike root-based plants, moss absorbs most of its nutrients from the atmosphere. Moss leaves lack a protective outer layer, which allows for the absorption of water and other substances across their entire surface, creating a “footprint” of the surrounding atmosphere. Previous studies in the Pacific Northwest have used a variety of moss species to screen air pollution in the Pacific Northwest; GDLL is specifically collecting Lyell’s bristle-moss (Orthotrichum lyellii), commonly found on local deciduous trees.

This work is part of the ongoing implementation of the Duwamish Valley Action Plan and will identify potential impacts while directing outcome actions to improve the community’s health and quality of life. The project provides green job training, economic development, community empowerment, cross sector collaboration, and on-the-ground environmental improvements to community residents. For more information, contact the City’s Urban Forestry Advisor, Sandra Pinto de Bader, at

And while you’re here, check out this video to see the great impact the DVYC is having in their community!