Research Area Reviews Archive
Watch recordings and see shared resources from Public Lab’s past research area review events here
2021 Research Area Reviews
December 13-17, 2021: Air Quality Data research area review
A summary of the latest research area review on air quality data is here, including a list of new data-related resources on the Public Lab website.
We wrapped up the review with a week of events on communicating air quality data.
Presentation & discussion on visualizing and communicating air quality data
We talked about some basic steps of communicating with air quality data, from understanding data better to cleaning and organizing data to data stories and visualizations. We also highlighted new activity posts and wikis on the Public Lab website covering these topics.
After the presentation, @fongvania led an open discussion on air quality monitoring and data. People on the call shared their local concerns with air quality as well as guidance on how to approach some of the challenges with community air monitoring.
Resources shared on the call:
- News from the Lower East Side: https://gothamist.com/news/city-demolition-east-river-park-underway-violation-court-order-protesters-say
- Public Lab resources on air quality data:
- Latest posts and questions: https://publiclab.org/tag/air-quality-data
- Collaborative wiki for background and resources: https://publiclab.org/wiki/air-quality-data
- Wiki page on cleaning and organizing data: https://publiclab.org/wiki/data-cleaning
- Data viz tools: https://publiclab.org/wiki/air-quality-data#Tools+for+making+visualizations+and+other+media
- The Data Viz Project: https://datavizproject.com/
- Air Tracker: https://edf.createlab.org/
- More information on Air Tracker: https://www.epa.gov/innovation/ej-video-challenge-students-tools-and-data-resources
- Baltimore Purple Air data: https://map.purpleair.com/1/mAQI/a10/p604800/cC0#10.57/39.3147/-76.5826
- Daily air quality reports: https://temboo.com/the-daily-breather
- Analysis of different air monitors: http://www.aqmd.gov/aq-spec/evaluations/summary-pm
- Sand Sentinel program around frac sand mining: https://publiclab.org/wiki/the-sand-sentinel-program
- AIRE collaborative made up of environmental justice groups in California: https://airecollaborative.org/
Guest speakers: Community scientists working with air quality data
Mary Jo Burke of LES Breathe and Christian Torres of Comite Civico del Valle each spoke about their community-led work building and running air monitoring projects.
Resources shared on the guest speaker call:
- LES Breathe homepage: https://eastriverparkaction.org/breathe/
- Guidebook for Developing a Community Air Monitoring Network: https://trackingcalifornia.org/cms/file/imperial-air-project/guidebook
Live build: Simple Air Sensor and data viz demo
Public Lab Research Curation Fellow @fongvania led us through a build and demo of the Simple Air Sensor and how we can use it to visualize air quality data.
Resources shared during the live build:
- General information on Public Lab’s Simple Air Sensor: https://publiclab.org/wiki/simple-air-sensor
- Instructions we’re following for assembling the Simple Air Sensor: https://publiclab.org/notes/warren/03-19-2019/assembling-the-simple-air-sensor
- Plantower sensor specification sheet: https://www.aqmd.gov/docs/default-source/aq-spec/resources-page/plantower-pms5003-manual_v2-3.pdf
- Ways to read or log data from the Simple Air Sensor: https://publiclab.org/tag/simple-air-sensor-data
- Software used in the data visualization demo: http://rawgraphs.io/
- Comparison of multiple free tools for data viz: https://publiclab.org/notes/fongvania/11-15-2021/comparing-data-visualization-tools
September 29, 2021: Wastewater research area review
To wrap up the review on wastewater, we had a “Wastewater Week” of sorts and held a series of events on wastewater and stormwater community science. Here's a summary of the new and updated resources on this topic on the Public Lab website.
Presentation on wastewater community science methods & group discussion
First up, we presented a summary of new resources on wastewater community science on the Public Lab website. There are several new activities for people wanting to investigate wastewater and stormwater pollution in their communities, ranging from observing and reporting pollution to sampling and detecting suspected pollution.
After the presentation, @alejobonifacio led a conversation where people spoke about the research and teaching they’re engaged in around environmental health and water quality.
Resources shared on the call:
- Coliscan Easygel for relatively inexpensive E. coli monitoring: https://www.weberscientific.com/coliscan-easygel-media-micrology-laboratories.
- Light sensor possibly for a DIY luminometer: https://www.amazon.com/Gowoops-Digital-Intensity-Detection-Photosensitive/dp/B01N1FKS4L
- Public Lab resources referred to during the presentation:
- Brief feedback form for anyone who participated in the research area review and wants to share their thoughts or receive updates! https://survey.alchemer.com/s3/6462091/RAR-Wastewater
Guest speakers: Community scientists doing wastewater monitoring
Resources shared on the guest speaker call:
- IMVEC website → https://imvec.tech
- Tools website → https://regist.ro
- Underground soil sampling method → https://regist.ro/?underground
- The Colors Mountain → https://ThecolorsMountain.org
- HoraAbierta de Autodefensa Medioambiental → https://fediverse.tv/c/haam/videos
- Social media ↓
Live build: DIY community microscope & observing aquatic life
And last but not least! Public Lab Research Curation Fellows @fongvania and @alejobonifacio showed us how to build a DIY dissecting microscope and how to use it to observe aquatic life for water quality comparisons.
You can find community microscope kits in the Public Lab store here. Also check out the instructions we follow in this instructional video for building the microscope stage and setting up the microscope camera (which serves as the lens).
Resources shared during the live build:
- General information on Public Lab’s community microscope: https://publiclab.org/wiki/micro
- Alejo’s activity on observing aquatic life as bioindicators of water quality: https://publiclab.org/notes/alejobonifacio/09-03-2021/como-evaluar-la-calidad-de-un-rio-con-insectos-acuaticos-bioindicadores-how-do-i-assess-the-quality-of-an-river-with-aquatic-insects-bioindicators
June 30, 2021: Mapping for organizing & advocacy research area review
We wrapped up our most recent collaborative topic review with a whole bunch of events on mapping for community organizing and advocacy! Here’s a summary of the new and updated resources for this topic on Public Lab.
Presentation on research area review work
We started the day by presenting the highlight reel from the last three months of collective work and conversations on this topic. There are new getting-started activities on using maps for advocacy, examples of how maps can be used—for storytelling, understanding a place, as evidence—and more general resources on methods for community organizing and advocacy. Following the presentation, @julia_e_masters facilitated an open discussion where people on the call shared how they’re using mapping in their place-based research and advocacy on environmental health issues.
Resources shared on the call:
- The Crowd & the Cloud documentary: http://crowdandcloud.org/watch-the-episodes/episode-one
- Advocacy with maps wiki page: https://publiclab.org/wiki/advocacy-with-maps
- Translated guides for balloon and kite mapping: https://publiclab.org/wiki/guides#Translations
- How to stitch aerial images together with MapKnitter: https://publiclab.org/notes/warren/04-06-2017/stitching-images-into-maps-with-mapknitter
- Advocacy wiki page: https://publiclab.org/wiki/advocacy
- Organizing wiki page: https://publiclab.org/wiki/organizing
- Form to fill out if you’d like to join future calls on this topic or leave feedback on the call: https://forms.gle/ZP7UrvZ8pq1G1cBY7
- City maps of “tree equity scores...derived from tree canopy cover, climate, demographic and socioeconomic data.” https://www.treeequityscore.org/
- Ways to extend some of the maps that were shared in the presentation—some options for web-based map and associated context applications:
- US EPA air monitoring: https://www.epa.gov/amtic/amtic-ambient-air-monitoring-networks and https://www.epa.gov/amtic/air-toxics-ambient-monitoring#natts
- World Health Organization standards for indoor air quality: https://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/128169/e94535.pdf
And then! @a1ahna from the Kits Team led us through a live build of a camera mount for balloon mapping! 📷 🎈We learned about the history of balloon mapping kits at Public Lab, the materials needed for a camera rig and how to build one, and Alahna’s balloon mapping tips and tricks. You can find balloon mapping kits in the Public Lab store here! Here’s a recording of the live build:
Resources shared during the live build:
- Camera mount build instructions: https://publiclab.org/wiki/pet-bottle-rubber-band-rig
- Balloon mapping: https://publiclab.org/wiki/balloon-mapping
- How-to guides with translations: https://publiclab.org/wiki/guides#Aerial+mapping
Community members working on mapping projects joined us for a guest speaker panel. This session brought together people from incredible, expansive projects that could have each presented in a dedicated event, so we chose to switch up the usual presentation format and instead do rounds of answering a series of prompts enabling us to see across projects. Visit the summary of this session to learn more about each panelist and the questions they answered.
Spanish language panel:
English language panel:
March 31, 2021: Soil contamination research area review
Our latest quarterly deep dive into research areas on Public Lab wrapped up with two public events on community science and soil contamination, attended by folx all over the world.
First, we shared highlights from our research area review on soil contamination, including activities to get started with investigating your soil, an overview of methods for testing and remediating polluted soil, and some next step challenges in tool development. People on the call also shared their questions, reflections, and local concerns on soil contamination.
A summary of the research area review on soil contamination is here, including some of the ongoing questions and challenges discussed on the call.
- LES Breathe in NYC: https://eastriverparkaction.org/breathe/
- Wateristic: an underwater bioluminescence detector: https://publiclab.org/wiki/wateristic-and-underwater-bioluminescence-detector
- Public Lab tag page for soil: https://publiclab.org/tag/soil
- Public Lab wiki page with background and resources on soil: https://publiclab.org/soil
- Public Lab wiki on soil remediation: https://publiclab.org/wiki/soil-remediation
- The "Healthy Soil Healthy Communities" project at Cornell has resources for urban gardeners with a focus on metals: https://blogs.cornell.edu/healthysoils/healthy-gardening/. They also have a handout on metals in urban soils: https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/handle/1813/48147/Metals_Urban_Garden_Soils.pdf
Second! We had the great fortune to co-host a virtual tool demo with Jackie James (@jjcreedon) and Mike Rosenberg (@Mike_CSCR) of Citizen Science Community Resources, who showed us their Soil Sampling Toolkit. You can watch the recording and read a summary of the demo here.
2020 Research Area Reviews
December 16, 2020: Air quality research area review
Wrapping up Public Lab’s latest research area review on air quality, we held a virtual get-together on community air monitoring. We saw highlights of updated air quality resources on the Public Lab website, talked about local air monitoring projects across the US, and shared goals, questions, and tips with each other.
Joining us to share their ongoing projects and experiences in community air monitoring:
- @MsSema and @mashalawais, responding to the ITC fire in the Houston, TX area, by developing lower-cost, real-time monitors and a mobile alert system for benzene and other emissions from petrochemical facilities.
- Deborah Mills, Wendy Brawer, Veronica Olivotto, and Mary Jo Burke of LES Breathe: developing a community-run air monitoring, reporting, and remediation network in the Lower East Side of New York City.
- Gustavo Aguirre Jr., Kern County Director at the Central California Environmental Justice Network, with experience in Bucket Brigades, driving changes in air quality policy in California, and engaging youth in air quality monitoring.
- @eustatic of Healthy Gulf, focusing on particulate matter monitoring and interested in ways to prevent community burnout in the face of chronic issues, plus immediate remediation as part of FEMA responses.
- @kgradow1, @jjcreedon, and Ethan McMahon of the US EPA, also joined the call to share questions and ideas.
Check out a summary of the research area review on air quality here, including highlights of some of the ongoing questions and challenges discussed on the call.
- LES Breathe: https://eastriverparkaction.org/breathe/
- Denny Larson’s organizing legacy around bucket brigades: https://rosefdn.org/in-memoriam-denny-larson/
- Public Lab’s latest posts on air quality: https://publiclab.org/tag/air-quality
- Public Lab’s main wiki page on air quality: https://publiclab.org/air-quality
- Issue brief - “Benzene Air Monitors For Fenceline Communities” by @MsSema: https://publiclab.org/n/25090
- Issue brief - “Impacted Communities - Citizen Science in a "No Zoning" City from Strategy to Solutions” by @mashalawais: https://publiclab.org/n/25143
- More Background on the ITC fire in Deer Park, TX: https://www.sierraclub.org/texas/blog/2019/03/itc-disaster-and-what-could-be-air-and-water
- DIY air filters: https://publiclab.org/notes/Melissa/08-26-2015/inexpensive-hepa-filter-fan-project-to-reduce-air-pollution, and another approach meant to reduce strain on the fan: https://tombuildsstuff.blogspot.com/2013/06/better-box-fan-air-purifier.html
- EPA Air Sensor toolbox: https://www.epa.gov/air-sensor-toolbox
- South Coast Air Quality Management District's SPEC-AQ sensor testing program: http://www.aqmd.gov/aq-spec, and sensor evaluations (field/lab): http://www.aqmd.gov/aq-spec/evaluations
- ISeeChange app with Air Pollution investigation: https://www.iseechange.org/investigations/5749ffb4245032597e8c6445/
- EPA National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) maps with background on cancer risk from air pollution in your area: https://gispub.epa.gov/NATA/
- Community science soil testing: https://csresources.org/own-a-soil-sampling-toolkit/wj3w1zntelhqex1356dar6fyot667a
- Air quality database activity: https://publiclab.org/notes/bhamster/11-30-2020/comparing-air-quality-databases-a-fun-activity
- Emergency Response Management Website gives relative risk presented by facilities. E.g., map of Houston / Pasadena / Deer Park, and Port Arthur https://erma.noaa.gov/gulfofmexico/#/layers=3+10717+37899&x=-95.00123&y=29.64326&z=9.3&panel=legend
- TERC + Global Community Monitor (GCM) overview of how to set up a campaign: https://publiclab.org/notes/kgradow1/10-30-2020/statistics-for-action-air-quality-guide
- South Durban Community Environmental Alliance resource guide on identifying chemicals by smell: https://publiclab.org/notes/kgradow1/10-31-2020/smells-that-kill-how-to-identify-odours
- Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) study on benzene emissions after recent changes made to the Clean Air Act: https://www.environmentalintegrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Benzene-Report-2.6.20.pdf
- Coalition Against Death Alley in Louisiana: https://www.enddeathalley.org/
- Air Watch Bay Area: http://www.airwatchbayarea.org/#home
- CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University: https://cmucreatelab.org/home
September 23, 2020: Microplastics research area review
In this call that wrapped up Public Lab’s research area review on microplastics, twenty people spanning seven time zones gathered to talk about microplastics monitoring in their communities. We shared stories, asked and answered questions, saw a quick overview of accessible ways to get started in microplastics monitoring, and built connections with each other.
Joining us to share their experiences in microplastics research:
- Jace Tunnell, leader of Nurdle Patrol and Director of the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve, University of Texas Marine Science Institute.
- Dr. Winnie Courtene-Jones, Lead Scientist for the Round the World research missions at eXXpedition and Research Fellow at the University of Plymouth, UK.
- David Boudinot and Daniel Brendle-Moczuk of the University of Victoria and Surfrider Foundation of Vancouver Island.
Check out this summary post of the event for more information on stories, questions, and topics that came up during the call, and this summary of the microplastics research area review that led up to it.
- National Estuarine Research Reserves: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/ecosystems/nerrs/
- Nurdle Patrol: https://nurdlepatrol.org/Forms/Home/
- How the Ocean Cleanup Array Fundamentally Misunderstands Marine Plastics and Causes Harm: https://discardstudies.com/2015/06/05/how-the-ocean-clean-up-array-fundamentally-misunderstands-marine-plastics-and-causes-harm/
- Operation Clean Sweep: https://www.opcleansweep.org/about/
- US EPA report, Plastic Pellets in the Aquatic Environment: Sources and Recommendations: https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPURL.cgi?Dockey=20004Y95.txt
- Story of Plastic: https://www.storyofplastic.org/
- Research team at the University of Plymouth: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/marine-litter
- Find ways to be part of the solution to plastic pollution with a free online platform: https://shift.how/
- Solidified Oil Spill campaign, Surfrider Foundation of Vancouver Island: https://vancouverisland.surfrider.org/solidified-oil-spill/
- Science journal cover story on plastic pollution: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/369/6510/1455
- Upcoming open access journal on microplastics and nanoplastics: https://microplastics.springeropen.com/
- Diane Wilson and San Antonio Bay Estuarine waterkeeper's work: https://waterkeeper.org/news/report-shows-plastic-pollution-a-threat-to-texas-gulf-coast/
- Impacts of Plastic summit videos available inside the Campaign Network: https://bit.ly/impactsofplastic
- Map of reports of "plastic" to the US Coast Guard, USA, National Response Center, courtesy of Skytruth and the Gulf Monitoring Consortium: https://alerts.skytruth.org/issue/186-plastic (also check out this post from @eustatic for more details!)