MACON – Mercer University junior Matthew Parker was recently featured in Science News for his research on using allergy-related Google searches as a proxy for pollen counts.
Parker tracked trends in Google searches for terms such as “pollen” and “Zyrtec” in Metro Atlanta from 2004 to 2011. He compared those trends with measurements taken at two local pollen counting stations for ragweed, oak and pine pollen.
The comparison proved effective for tracking pollen trends, even in the spring of 2011, during which an unusual allergy season took place.
Despite the tens of millions of Americans being affected by allergies each year, some 19 states lack any certified pollen counting stations. Parker's research could prove valuable for providing long-term pollen trends in such areas, although his method is limited to areas with large numbers of Internet users.
As rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels are expected to increase the intensity of peak pollen production, Parker told Science News, tracking pollen will become increasingly important.
Parker's research began while he was participating in a summer internship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. He presented his findings at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society on Jan. 7 in Phoenix.
A biochemistry and molecular biology major from Avondale Estates, Georgia, he plans to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry.
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