Help Sample Tucson Plants to Study Fuel Emissions

Did you know that we can identify fossil fuel emissions in the air by sampling annual plants? Knowing where greenhouse gases are and at what concentrations can help policymakers fight climate change. All major cities in Arizona have developed action plans to reduce greenhouse gases, but they still lack quality data regarding carbon dioxide sources and the ability to monitor how well actions work. You can help!

This spring, Sky Island Alliance is partnering with Northern Arizona University’s ACE Isotope Lab, Arizona State University’s Southwest Urban Corridor Integrated Field Lab, and Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix to measure fossil fuel levels in Arizona’s biggest cities. For this particular collaboration, our role is to contribute data specifically from Tucson. What we need are volunteers to help sample invasive annual plants in different places around town to understand which areas have the highest emissions.

When fossil fuels are burned in our communities, they leave an imprint on atmospheric carbon dioxide. Plants record their level of fossil fuel exposure in the radiocarbon content of their stems, leaves, and flowers. For annual plants — i.e. ones that will complete their entire lifecycle this spring — their tissues will have lower radiocarbon signatures in areas with higher fossil fuel emissions. Learn more about how it all works and how to help us with this project below.

Get Started

For full project details and answers to frequently asked questions, watch our virtual training. We’ll be collecting plants throughout April, and after this training you’ll be ready to hit the streets and volunteer with confidence.

You can also jump right in and follow the guide below. Either way, you’ll need to schedule a time to pick up sample envelopes and an assignment from the SIA office. Contact Emily Burns to arrange a time. Generally, our staff will be available on Wednesdays from 1-4 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

Sampling Protocol

Frequently Asked Questions