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2020 OpenHours

February 3rd: Education

This month we’ll hear from educators who will share their experiences with Public Lab in the classroom. We’ll explore how they develop, pilot, and refine community science programming in classrooms in New Orleans and hear how they worked to build connections between students and local environmental issues. We’ll also share more about our upcoming classroom community science workshop and Public Lab’s educational programs.

2019 OpenHours

November 12: Monitoring Oil in Water

We were joined by Public Lab's Oil and Gas Water Fellowship Trio and other members of the Public Lab community to discuss issues around collecting information about water quality and relating this to oil and gas industry impacts.

Make Month!

In October, we had several open calls where we will be walking through the assembly and use of some Public Lab kits live over video. See more about our project on our MAKE Wiki

October 3: Build a Community Microscope Using a webcam and a few pieces of hardware, make a DIY microscope that will allow you to get a closer look at your environment!

October 5: BabyLegs Trawl Learn how to make a DIY trawl so that you can collect samples from your local waterways! Look for microplastics, algae, organisms and more!

October 9: It's two-for-one! We'll be demonstrating the Coqui (a DIY conductivity sensor), and a DIY particulate sensor for studying air quality.

October 28: We'll be available to discuss all of our kits, take questions about open source hardware, ways to get involved with environmental monitoring where you live, and ways that being part of the Public Lab community can help connect you with resources and support.

September 3: Outreachy and Google Summer of Code 2019 Presentations

Students and fellows participating in the 2019 Outreachy and Google Summer of Code program at Public Lab will presented their summer's work. Students offered 5-min presentations about their projects upgrading and improving,, and Image Sequencer, and more.

August 5: Odors

In this OpenHour we discussed odors, joined by Dr. Shelly Miller, contributor to our recent issue of the "Community Science Forum" exploring odor logging. We also discussed how to describe and monitor smells, where to report them, technology for monitoring and reporting, and heard from people in impacted communities.

July 15: Baby Legs

In this OpenHour we talk with Dr. Max Liboiron about BabyLegs: learn how to assemble and troubleshoot your own DIY marine trawl, and talk about how to use it to learn about different kinds of pollution. We're currently crowdfunding for BabyLegs over on Kickstarter, click here to learn more about that campaign.

June 3: Environmental Education

Environmental education is a process that allows people to explore environmental issues, engage in problem solving, and take action to improve the environment. Through experiential learning, participants develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues and have the skills to make informed and responsible decisions. At Public Lab, we’re working to expand our network of formal and non-formal educators and create a space for collaboration and discussion.

This month, we invite environmental educators to chat about:

  • Developing curricula around field work
  • Building connections between students and local environmental issues
  • Creating space for student-led inquiry
  • using Public Lab tools in an educational setting

May 6: Launching Summer of Code

April 1: Soil Testing

Soil testing through professional labs can be expensive. While there are more affordable options such as XRF and other field test kits, most are still out of community’s price range or aren’t widely available. DIY and open source soil testing methods and technology need further development.

We discuss low cost soil testing, contaminants, and various DIY approaches to analyzing soils.

March 4: Diffusion tubes test air quality in the UK

Presenter: Louise Francis from &

Louise Francis from Mapping for Change will share with us the chemistry of the 70's style analog tubes that communities are installing to document air quality impacts from traffic in London. She will also explain how they are installed, what kind of lab analysis is required after what period of time, and how the results have affected environmental governance -- exciting wins! Here's some background reading about the project:

February 4: Community Science Disaster Response Toolkit

On Feb 22-24 we will gather in Galveston to work on community-led preparation for environmental disasters: what to do in advance, how to respond as an event unfolds, and what to do to help advocate for cleanup, recovery and remediation in the weeks, months and years after. Whether you can make it to Galveston or not, if you care about these topics, this OpenHour is for You!

Over summer '18, we put together these principles for community-led crisis response. Now we're moving towards identifying tools and methods that can be used to gather data about environmental impact: what can your community prepare for? Are there things you should have in your disaster kit now? What kinds of events can we anticipate? For those with previous experiences, what would you make sure do (or do differently) in the future? Here are some question prompts:

  • What are best practices in terms of health and safety in flood and storm events (particularly relating exposure to waterborne contaminants during and after)?
  • What kind of real-time data is meaningful to collect? What can wait? What are the most important data collection tools to have on hand (cameras, sensors, chemical tests, etc).
  • In terms of remediation/recovery, how do you identify areas for further attention/research?
  • If you plan to pursue legal / regulatory enforcement with your findings, are there specific guidelines to be aware of when it comes to documentation, chain of custody, data storage, etc?

January 7: Lead

Lead is known toxin. There are no safe levels of lead for humans; any amount is a bad amount. Yet lead is a heavy metal that is common in our everyday environment. Historically it has been used in paints, pipes, and in gasoline. In this OpenHour, we will spend time exploring lead detection and monitoring, and the new Lead Data Initiative, a multi-stakeholder effort addressing environmental lead exposure and lead poisoning prevention organized by Public Lab Fellow Read Holman.

2018 OpenHours

December 3: Usability Feedback for

This fall and winter, we've embarked on a set of projects to improve the usability and user interface design of Have you gotten stuck or lost while browsing people's work on Public Lab, or been frustrated or confused trying to find or do things? Then we need your constructive input to make improvements.

Our growing community of code contributors -- many of whom are making their first contributions to open source -- are looking to improve things, and would love to hear some of your experiences and ideas. We're looking for both general impressions and specific issues -- please show up ready to pitch in and help make Public Lab a better place.

Background: through projects supported by the DIAL Open Source Center, the Digital Impact Alliance, and the 11th Hour Project, we are looking to make more accessible and easier to use, with a focus on supporting people looking to engage on environmental issues. We're looking at everything from a smooth log-in sequence to the way our geographic features support regional organizing, to the layout and information design of our topic pages, and more.

November 5: Technology and process in working with Environmental Justice and environmental health impacted communities

In this OpenHour we were be joined by:

  • Vanessa Gray is Anishinaabe kwe from Aamjiwnaang First Nation, located in Canada's Chemical Valley. As an organizer with ASAP, Aamjiwnaang and Sarnia Against Pipelines, she works with community members to bring awareness to the health issues resulting from her reserve's toxic surroundings.
  • Nick Shapiro, PhD: Public Lab Open Air Fellow currently based at the Technoscience Research Unit, and formerly a Matter, Materials and Culture Fellow at the Science History Institute.
  • Jackie Creedon Director at Community Science Citizen Resource -- celebrating her recent community win to shut down Tonawanda Coke.
  • Barbara Weckesser of Cherokee Concerned Citizens of Pascagoula Mississippi whose efforts were recently featured in the post "The fight to get out of Pascagoula"
  • and others

Notes and resources shared:

October 1: Google Code In

In this call we take the opportunity to meet together on video, say hello, introduce ourselves, and build camaraderie as we head into this busy period of asynchronous collaboration. This OpenHour was not recorded


September 10: Using the new Community Microscope

The Community Microscope is shipping! This OpenHour we will spend time working through some of the first steps to get started with the microscope-- from preparing and focusing on your first slides to adjusting your setup for different kinds of viewing. We'll also explore the ways that images and video of very small things can be used in environmental advocacy, and discuss ways that tools, such as open-source microscopes, can be used to support this work.

August 6: Summer of Code Projects

As the summer coding season comes to a close, we wanted to take time to look over what has been accomplished, and talk about next steps for coding on Public Lab. First-time and veteran contributors alike, have worked to support summer of code students to bring exciting new features to In just two months, students developed systems allowing people to reply to Public Lab posts by email, to login to Public Lab through google and social media accounts, to explore environmental data and projects on an interactive map and more.

July 9: Reflections on two years of our Code of Conduct

The Public Lab Code of Conduct is two years old this month! In this OpenHour, we review the document, talk about what has gone well, and what might need to be added or adjusted to protect the safe spaces of Public Lab!

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