Building Foundations of Citizen Science with EPA

Mar 15, 2017

Clean Air Carolina pushes contributory science forward once again. On March 1st, the staff officially embarked on a new partnership with the EPA to help “write the book” of environmental citizen science. Clean Air Carolina was one of only two organizations in the country (the other being Tribal) chosen to take part in this special project. The main goal of the project is to help citizen scientists and community groups learn how to use low-cost, portable air sensors, and effectively evaluate the results of air measurements for their reliability. The project is intended for education and training, not regulation.

Clean Air Carolina and EPA staff members assembled custom shelters specially designed to house three Aeroqual Series 500 Ozone sensors.  The shelters allow free moving air to pass in and out, while protecting the sensors from the elements and any wildlife that may want to share the space.

The finished unit will be deployed at University Meadows, and the data collected by the monitors will be compared to Mecklenburg County’s ozone monitor as a reference. The better we can assess the instruments, the better information citizen scientists can contribute.

Charlotte-area citizen scientists are working with EPA and Clean Air Carolina to investigate the capability of a highly portable ozone sensor and comparing results to nearby federal air monitors. The EPA and states use the federal monitors to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards mandated by the Clean Air Act. By comparing results from low-cost sensors to data collected from more sophisticated federal air quality monitors, citizen scientists can learn first-hand about the sensitivity and quality of various types of sensors, and the importance of accurate data.

In selecting partners for this project, EPA scientists interviewed a number of community action groups and Tribal Nations to find partners that would benefit from directly interacting with EPA researchers on low-cost sensors, had knowledge of or access to federal air quality monitors, and had a population of interested citizens who could directly benefit from the lessons learned from the sensor project. Clean Air Carolina is proud to partner with EPA and is excited to develop the EPA’s Citizen Science Air Sensor Project in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area.

Watch our short video and learn more about Citizen Science and our exciting new partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency: