Up in Smoke
You don't have to be a Smithsonian scientist to know a lot about the atmosphere! Teenage high school science student, Sarah Mims, made an unexpected discovery while working on a science fair project to see if spores of fungi could travel on air-borne dust. With a homemade, 35-cent smoke detector attached to a kite, she found that smoke particles from major fires in Mexico had carried live fungi spores across the Gulf of Mexico to her home in Texas. Since some fungi can spread plant diseases, Sarah’s finding suggests that the atmosphere can transport smoke-riding, disease-causing microbes long distances.