Pat Shingleton: "Black Carbon is for the Birds..."
Black carbon is also known as "soot" and was the most prolific pollutant in the 1900's. Two University of Chicago graduate students, Shane DuBay and Carl Fuldner, advanced their research on industrial-era air pollution by studying birds. A collection of fowl in Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History helped clarify the record on black carbon emissions. The team studied more than 1,300 birds in the museum that were collected and displayed between 1880 and 2015. The bird examples were contributed from midwestern states. DuBay and Fuldner were able to identify black carbon that accumulated on the birds and by matching date and location information on the specimens, they were able to trace soot levels to the nineteenth century. They were also able to verify their methodology by recognizing a decline in the levels during the Great Depression and an increase during World War II. Soot levels between 1880 and 1910 were higher than previously targeted by model comparisons.