Developing protocols to better characterize and utilize networks of low-cost air quality monitors to inform public health and urban planning

Date: 11/1/2021
Principal Researchers: Priyanka deSouza and Ben Crawford

Unit: Department of Urban & Regional Planning and Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences 

Project Abstract: Low-cost monitoring networks are increasingly being used to supplement regulatory networks and to aid in a neighborhood-scale understanding of air pollution levels. However, the variability and uncertainty inherent in the measurements from such devices presents many challenges. Little is known, for example, about the lifetime of such sensors under different site conditions, or what the sensitivity of overall spatial and temporal trends from low-cost monitoring networks is to different calibration algorithms. Finally, the utility of low-cost monitoring networks in detecting wildfires and evaluating indoor-outdoor filtration rates for different urban typologies has been under-characterized. The former use-case is especially important as many smartphone apps draw on data from low-cost sensors to issue public health warnings about wildfire smoke. Our study aims to fill in these gaps using a dense national network of low-cost sensors deployed in various environmental conditions. It aims to apply these findings to the network: Love My Air consisting of low-cost monitors deployed in public schools in Denver.

priyanka-editedPriyanka deSouza Bio: Priyanka deSouza (Lead PI) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Studies at the University of Colorado Denver. Her research focuses on 1) developing new methods to fill in the gaps of air pollution data using low-cost sensors and satellite data, 2) understanding the health impacts of air pollution and climate change exposures on vulnerable populations, 3) investigating the political economy of air pollution to understand barriers to effective regulatory action. Priyanka has a BTech and MTech in Energy Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, an MSc in Environmental Change and Management and an MBA from the University of Oxford where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar, and a PhD in Urban Studies and Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Priyanka has also served as a consultant for the United Nations Environment Program and the World Health Organization.

bc-editedBen Crawford Bio: Ben Crawford (PI) is an Assistant Professor in the Geography and Environmental Sciences Department at the University of Colorado Denver. His research focuses on investigating atmospheric processes in urban areas, including air pollution, using data from sensor networks, satellites, and models. Before coming to Colorado in 2019, Ben was a postdoc at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and completed his graduate studies at the University of British Columbia.

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