Of Moss and Men

  • 5441 Southeast Belmont Street Portland, OR, 97215 United States

Who would think that lowly mosses, the unassuming (and sometimes maligned) denizens of our rooftops, trees, and dark crevices, might tell us something profound about human health? Without roots or the ability to store water, moss lives at the mercy of the elements, relying fully on the atmosphere for all moisture and nutrients. Their tiny leaves, one cell thick, have no protective layer. Often growing in dense low-lying cushions, mosses intercept and trap environmental contaminants from the air, providing a valuable record of air quality. Please join us as Sarah Jovan, lichenologist, and Geoff Donovan, Research Forester, both of the U.S. Forest Service, talk about current research that uses moss to map pollutants and indicate human exposure across Portland. We will discuss implications for urban gardening and how you can participate in the next research phase.

Sarah Jovan works as a research scientist for the Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis Program overseeing the national lichen program for bio-monitoring air quality and climate change. She has ongoing research projects in Portland, interior Alaska, northern New Mexico, and southern California. Her core mission is to develop bio-monitoring tools that provide natural resource managers and policy makers with the detail and foresight needed to make well-informed decisions affecting the status of air quality, forest health, and human health.

Photo courtesy of Geoff Donovan

Photo courtesy of Geoff Donovan

Geoff Donovan is a research forester with the US Forest Service at PNW Research Station in Portland.  He earned a BS in Bio chemistry from Sheffield University in the UK in 1992 and a PhD in forest economics from Colorado State University in 2001. Geoff has worked on a number of research projects quantifying a wide range of urban-tree benefits such as reducing summertime cooling costs to crime reduction.  More recently, he has focused on the relationship between trees and public health where he has found that mothers with trees around their homes are less likely to have underweight babies, and when trees are killed by an invasive pest, more people die from cardiovascular and lower-respiratory disease. He has a number of ongoing projects including a collaboration with the women's health initiative. His hobbies include trail running and eating sugar, although perhaps not in that order.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Jovan

Photo courtesy of Sarah Jovan

*This presentation has been approved for 1 hour of MG Garden Education/Recertification credit.