Cal State East Bay professor leads students in fight against climate change

- A  professor at Cal State East Bay is leading a team of student researchers in fighting climate change.

They say they're excited by the information they've collected from a field project. 

"As a Bay Area native, I'm very passionate about restoring wetlands in this area in particular and studying California," said Patty Oikawa, professor of earth and environmental sciences. 

Eden Landing Ecological Reserve in Hayward provides an outdoor laboratory for a  project led by Oikawa and a team of student researchers. 

They set up a tower  equipped with measuring  devices in February to collect data on  how wetlands help fight climate change. 

"We're quantifying the greenhouse gases the wetlands are taking out of the atmosphere every year," said Oikawa. 

The researchers are taking air, soil and water samples. 

The team collects the data twice a month. They say the 6,4000 -acre wetlands is nature's way of fighting climate change by absorbing large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. . 

"When you see your data, when you process your data, that even more excites you.  You see what's going on," said Jennie Bahramian, a graduate student who is a member of the research team.  

Professor Oikawa says  carbon and other greenhouse gases absorbed by this wetland every year can have a significant impact on the environment.  

"One and a half metric tons of carbon out of the atmosphere per acre every year which is the equivalent of about 10-thousand cars off the road," said Oikawa.

The researchers say the wetlands work like a sponge and a barrier... to counter rising sea levels by functioning as a buffer zone. 

"As the sea level is rising, the wetland will be building up soil protecting this inland area from the rising waters," said Tommy Fenster, a graduate student who is also on the research team. 

Professor Oikawa said  state law requires companies  such as cement factories and transportation companies limit or counter the negative impact of greenhouse emissions by building wetlands. .

She says the research from this type of project will help companies do that.  

"Educate people. Motivate people and inspire people to fight climate change.  Invest in wetlands now before it's too late," said Oikawa. 

The professor says this is a long term project. She hopes to keep it going for ten years, perhaps 20 years. She says this is a great way to fight climate change. 
 

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