Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Cleaning Up

CIRES scientists scour three miles of U.S. 36

Twenty-one scientists and family members patrolled the edges of highway 36 Saturday morning, using poker sticks to pick up scraps of plastic and old bottles, filling tough orange plastic trash bags with their findings.

“Thank you!” cyclists yelled as they raced by. “Great work!”  

“I’ve been leading this for 10 years,” said Jennie Bell, part of the CIRES Finance Team and organizer of the CIRES Adopt-a-Highway cleanup. “Rob Schubert and Jeff Kosley got it started. I was on their work crew.”

At the corner of St. Vrain Road and U.S. 36 Saturday, Bell warmly greeted colleagues from across CIRES. Researchers from the National Snow and Ice Data Center were there, as were CIRES scientists who work in the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratories and others who work within CU Boulder faculty research groups. For a couple hours on a sunny morning, they patrolled both sides of U.S. 36, north and south of St. Vrain Road, wearing bright orange vests.

Kyle Zarzana, who works in NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Laboratory, said the volunteer work made him feel good. “We’re making Colorado a little cleaner,” Zarzana said.

April 2017 Highway cleanup crew. Back, L to R: Terry Haran, Barry Eakins, Christoph Senff, Raina Gough, Kyle Zarzana. Middle: Donna Scott, Jennie Bell, Liz Cassano, Yan Wang, Xingzhou Yang, Florence Jones, Mike Jones. Front: Gloria Hicks, Sabrina Cassano, Molly Hardman, fiorella and Francesca. PhotO: Robin L. Strelow/CIRES.

Donna Scott, who works for the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said “It makes sense, cleaning up the environment, because we work for an environmental research institute.”

Scott picked up a brittle black tangle and dropped it into her bag. “I’ve learned, doing this, that bananas don’t decompose here,” she said.

On the highway cleanup, Bell once found a $20 bill, which she nearly mistook for a dried leaf.

“Hey, look what I found!” said 10-year-old Francesca, pulling a bicycle inner tube from her orange bag. Francesca and sister Fiorella, 6, joined their grandparents, CIRES’ Mike Jones and his wife Florence Jones, for the cleanup.

Sabrina Cassano, 8, worked with her mom, CIRES researcher Liz Cassano, despite a busy weekend schedule of soccer games and parties. “It’s fun sticking the stuff,” said Sabrina, 8, holding up her poker. “I call myself the sticking master.”


CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and CU Boulder.

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