By Amanda Kaufman
I have seen a fast expansion of next generation air pollution sensor technologies while working in the field of citizen science for the past three years. Small, hand-held air quality sensors are now commercially available and provide citizens the ability to plan, conduct, and understand local environmental air quality as never before. Many of these cost less than $1,000, making them more accessible for community groups and even individuals to purchase.
While the new sensor technologies generally do not provide regulatory-grade data, such devices are rapidly advancing to improve data quality and can be used to enhance monitoring efforts. They can be used in a wide range of situations including to investigate air quality concerns in local communities and to teach people about the importance of clean air to public health and the environment.
With the rapid growth of sensor technologies, there is a great demand for information on how to select the appropriate monitoring technology and use it to gather viable information. That is why I am pleased to announce the availability of six air monitoring training videos, developed to help citizen scientists conduct air quality monitoring projects. The videos feature presentations by EPA experts and a citizen science professional given at EPA’s Community Air Monitoring Training workshop on July 9, 2015.
EPA hosted the training workshop as a pilot venture to share tools used to conduct citizen science projects involving Next Generation Air Monitoring (NGAM) technology and to educate interested groups and individuals about best practices for successful air monitoring projects.
The videos are part of the Air Sensor Toolbox for Citizen Scientists and are intended to serve as resources for anyone interested in learning more about monitoring air quality. They provide short overviews (between 15-18 minutes in length) on topics that can help citizens plan and implement a successful air monitoring project. The topics and presenters are:
- Air Quality Monitoring and Sensor Technologies by Ron Williams, Project Lead for EPA’s Office of Research and Development emerging technology research area.
- How to Start a Citizen Science Program by Liz Barry, Co-founder and Director of Community Development at the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science.
- Citizen Science Study Design by Rachelle Duvall, Research Physical Scientist in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.
- Data Measurement, Management, Quality, Uncertainty by Bob Judge, Air Monitoring Team Leader in EPA’s Region 1 Office in Boston.
- Quality Assurance by Ron Williams, Project Lead for EPA’s Office of Research and Development emerging technology research area.
- Short Term Measurements and Air Quality Messaging/ Regulatory Requirements for Data by Kristen Benedict, Atmospheric Scientist in EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards.
I was delighted to see the enthusiasm of the workshop attendees for the training and their desire to apply it to their local situation. It was contagious. Many who attended indicated they would go home and share key aspects of the training with their community groups to develop their own citizen science research plans.
With the availability of the training videos, more people will have access to the information provided on emerging technologies and community air monitoring. I see a bright future for citizen scientists as they become more aware of their local environment.
About the Author: Amanda Kaufman is an ORISE participant hosted by EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory.