Question: How can DIY/community-collected environmental data be used?

wmacfarl is asking a question about water-quality
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by wmacfarl | September 18, 2019 20:13 | #20918

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Briefly: We are thinking about tool and project development for water quality monitoring around oil and gas pollution. In order to develop useful data-collection tools we need to know what kinds of things people want to use data for.

When is DIY/community-produced instrumentation and data useful for advocacy purposes? Perhaps as a first-pass tool to provoke investigation with more expensive, "official" instruments? Does this happen? Does it work?

What about personal decision-making -- "can I drink my tapwater?", " should I install an air-filter?" -- on the one hand, DIY sensing seems well-suited to answering personal questions because you are your own audience so you don't have to worry about formatting your data or constructing your experiment to meet the standards of a third-party.

On the other hand, the variability in the quality and calibration of many low-cost sensors makes the data from DIY instrumentation hard to interpret in isolation without an active community of other people using the same tools and techniques.

Does anyone have good examples of these (or other) kinds of uses? What technical or community features make this kind of data more usable?


I suppose to get agencies to respond. Often photos are not enough for TSS, but are for oil. If we only have one staff person for thousands of facilities, there's competition for attention. in this case, Hilcorp after Barry, we needed to be out there to photograph a sheen and email it in. it would be better if we could make the company report on itself with a transparent sensor.

Hilcorp, NRC reports 125 3034 and 125 3044

What is TSS? my googling suggests "total suspended solids"? Is that right?

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Yes! I think so

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I'm interested in how data can be presented in very visual ways for advocacy work - like these kinds of images for air pollution:


But also, overlaying visual data on a map (just a still image, not an interactive map), kind of like how people did in this post on #h2s by @ewilder:


Images like these can be really powerful ways to communicate without getting into jargon, and they can be great ways to present even official data sources that's more legible.

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