Allergy sufferers will not have to go far to find the source of their runny noses next spring because Fordham University will be tracking pollen counts with the help of a $51,500 grant from the Louis Calder Foundation.
The grant will be used to train and certify pollen counters, who will collect pollen samples five days a week and report the counts to 450 doctors and media outlets in the tri-state area, said John Wehr, associate biology professor and director of Fordham’s Louis Calder Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y. “This is a good example of how the scientific work we are doing here is of value to the general community,” he said. The pollen counts help doctors readily diagnose allergies and effectively treat their patients, Wehr said. Four or five years ago Fordham started counting pollen for a local doctor, allergist and high school teacher who initiated a pollen-counting program, but it shut down in 1999. Since then, Fordham has sought the money to start its own program.
The foundation grant will take care of the 2001 and 2002 seasons while the center looks for permanent funding. Starting in March 2001, Fordham research associate Lida Pigott Burney and student pollen counters will collect samples five days a week in a pollen sampler that sits about 30 feet above the ground, on the roof of the Calder Center in Armonk, N.Y. The count will be faxed to local doctors in Westchester, southern and central Connecticut, and parts of New Jersey, Manhattan and Long Island.
The results also will be sent to the National Allergy Bureau in Milwaukee and to the Harvard University School of Public Health, which certifies pollen counters and publishes a national summary of pollen counts. In addition to the valuable community service, Wehr said the pollen collection will be used to identify new plant species in the area. For more information about pollen counts or to find out counts in other areas of the United States, log on to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at www.aaaai.org.