More to Clear Blue Sky than Meets the Eye

SMU-Aldona-Wiacek-1Dr. Aldona Wiacek has high hopes for funding from the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust (NSRIT)—sky high, in fact.

“Like most people, I feel happy when I see a clear, blue sky,” says Dr. Wiacek, who joined the Saint Mary’s University faculty in July 2013 as a professor in the departments of Environmental Science and Astronomy and Physics. “Unfortunately, there’s more to that clear blue sky than meets the eye.”

A respected researcher in the area of atmospheric toxins such as trace gas and aerosol pollutants, Dr. Wiacek used combined funds of roughly $240,000 received from NSRIT and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to purchase a ground- based, remote sensing instrument called an open-path Fourier transform infrared spectrometer. A central piece to Dr. Wiacek’s growing Tropospheric Remote Sensing Laboratory at Saint Mary’s, the spectrometer will provide real time data that tracks harmful chemicals emitted into the atmosphere from economic activities, transportation, and natural processes.

Over the next five years, more than 20 students and researchers will receive training on the equipment, gaining vital experience to make them innovative, globally competitive players in the economy of the future.

“Studying the atmospheric environment is important for a number of reasons,” says Dr. Wiacek. “Not only does it add a new dimension to research at Saint Mary’s, but it also allows us to answer important questions about air quality in Nova Scotia, thereby informing policy, regulations, and individual decision-making through the Air Quality Health Index public advisory tool.


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