Training Prepares Citizen Scientists to Monitor Air Quality

By Amanda KaufmanAir Sensor Training graphic identifier

Citizen science is at the forefront of many discussions and community efforts to understand local environmental conditions. The movement is rapidly expanding as science resources and tools are becoming available that provide citizens the ability to plan and conduct research on their own. As a citizen scientist myself, I have noticed a recurring theme – citizens often lack the knowledge and/or resources to conduct successful air quality monitoring projects. To help empower citizen scientists, EPA is hosting the Community Air Monitoring Training: A Glimpse into EPA’s Air Sensor Toolbox on July 9, 2015.

This training event is unique in that it represents communities and tribal groups from across the United States interested in implementing citizen science projects to learn about their local air quality. Thirty individuals and 1,000 registered webinar viewers will receive training from EPA and other leading citizen science professionals associated with emerging air quality technologies.

Our featured speakers will share information on the state of emerging sensor technologies, data quality issues to consider before conducting research, and success stories of how such technologies are being applied. Citizen science experts from outside EPA, including Caren Cooper from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Liz Barry from Public Lab, and Erin Heaney from the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, will share their citizen science success stories and provide tips on how others can conduct successful citizen science projects.

The morning presentations are being videotaped with plans to make training videos available on the Air Sensor Toolbox for Citizen Scientists web page, so check back later this summer. The Air Sensor Toolbox for Citizen Scientists is an online resource that provides information and guidance on new low-cost technologies for measuring air quality. The toolbox features resources developed by EPA researchers that can be used by citizens to effectively collect, analyze, interpret, and communicate air quality data. One such resource, the Air Sensor Guidebook, explores low-cost air sensor technologies, provides general guidelines on what to look for in obtaining a sensor, and examines important data quality features. Other resources include sensor evaluation reports and standard operating procedures for select low-cost sensors currently available commercially. We hope these resources will provide valuable information to individuals and communities as they embark on new air monitoring projects.

When I first suggested the idea of a citizen science air monitoring training to colleagues, I never imagined that we would get such a strong response to it. My dream to help communities conduct successful air monitoring projects is coming true and I couldn’t be happier. My hope is that the training will give participants the tools they need to investigate air quality concerns in their communities and to educate others about the importance of clean air to public health and the environment.

The Community Air Monitoring Training Webinar is on Thursday, July 9th from 9:00 AM EDT – 12:30 PM EDT.

About the author: Amanda Kaufman is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) participant. She is hosted by EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy national research program.

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