Ozone Garden

Air Quality

Ozone Garden

Welcome to the UCCS Ozone Garden!  

The UCCS ozone garden is a Green Action Funded (GAF) project that was established in 2016 at the Sustainability Demonstration House. Our ozone garden consists of four different bioindicator plants that help us identify the cleanliness of our air. There are several ozone gardens scattered across the U.S. and their purpose is to measure and collect air quality data in any given area. With this data, we can begin to determine whether or not there is a particular type of pollutant called tropospheric ozone (ground-level ozone) circulating the air we breathe and begin to find solutions. 

Air quality is a major factor in the progress and overall quality of life in diverse ecosystems. It has primary effects on humans, animals, vegetation, water and more. It also has secondary effects on things like economy. We are able to identify tropospheric ozone by analyzing the reaction to poor air quality that our bioindicator plants display daily. Students and citizen scientists are welcome to visit the garden as they please to collect data.

For further assistance or a guided tour, we encourage you to contact the office ahead of time at sustain@uccs.edu

Program Background Information
Learn more about why we have an ozone garden through the following questions.
  • There are two types of ozone; stratospheric and tropospheric.

    Stratospheric ozone (“good ozone) occurs naturally and acts as a sunblock protecting us from harsh ultraviolet radiation the sun emits. 

    Tropospheric ozone (“bad” ozone) is a secondary pollutant, which causes respiratory issues and other damage. Tropospheric ozone is a mixture of nitrogen oxide (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and sunlight. When conditions are just right these three compounds are brought together to form ground-level ozone pollution. Perfect conditions include high temperature summer days with high levels of NOx and VOC’s being released into the atmosphere from burning fossil and using electric appliances (i.e. lawn mower, vehicle, air conditioner, etc.). The NOx and VOC’s that are released are then exposed to sunlight effectively creating ozone pollution at ground-level where we live and breathe.  


    Ozone Pollution: The Good, the Bad, and the Dirty ... 

    Figure 1. Contrast between “good” and “bad” ozone.  


  • We currently collect data from our four different bioindicator plants (coneflower, milkweed, snap beans, potatoes) located in between the SDH and Farmhouse. Data is collected by analyzing the surfaces of the plant leaves. We look for stippling patterns (organized dotting) that do not cross the leaf veins. The more stippling the more ozone pollution.  

    Our staff is currently in the process of installing a new ozone monitor (model 106-L) that will be used as an additional tool in collecting and measuring air quality-coming 2021. Below is a video demonstrating the process of how our ozone monitor collects data.  



    Figure 2. UCCS student study’s a milkweed plant for ozone damage at the SDH ozone garden. 

  • Some plant species are more useful bioindicators than others, which is why NCAR has instructed all ozone gardens connected to their particular database to plant the same species. This also helps with the consistency and accuracy of our overall interpretation of specific data. As previously mentioned our ozone garden consists of coneflower, milkweed, potato, and snap bean (seeds supplied by NCAR). Bioindicator plants typically display a purple colored stippling, sometimes dark green or brown when negatively affected by ozone. Stippling occurs only on the leaf surface in organized patterns between the veins, not the veins themselves. Irregular patterns, holes, and vein crossings are indicative of insect activity or other disturbances. Below are some examples of ground-level ozone pollution.