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If you saw some strange objects sticking out of the ground around campus recently, you may have been witnessing a science experiment in progress! 
Students in Field's Environmental Science class recently used homemade particulate catchers to "catch" some of the air around campus and bring it back to the lab for testing.
"Particulate matter, an air pollutant," Environmental Science teacher Laura Franklin explains, "is composed of solid or liquid particles that are small enough to be suspended in the atmosphere and can damage respiratory tissues when inhaled." Dust, soot, sulfates, and nitrates can all produce particulate matter. Yuck!
After collecting the samples, students looked at the particulate matter under a microscope to see what they'd caught. The sample shown here is from a particulate catcher junior Jaye put under the Field sign on Foxhall Road. Laura explains that the particulate matter shown is likely a mix of road dust and combustion products. "It's not too bad as far as particulate concentration goes," she says. "I imagine that we'd see a much higher concentration if we did this in some other parts of town. And if we had done this in a city known for high levels of air pollution like Beijing, then our catchers would probably be coated too thickly to see anything."
Woah! Talk about a fun way to practice collecting and examining samples in our own environment. Hypothesis proved: Environmental Science at Field is super-cool!