GUEST BLOG: Connecting Communities with AQ Data

Oct 10, 2018

By: Brian Magi

The AirKeepers program at Clean Air Carolina made a lot of positive impressions at the recent Air Sensors International Conference (ASIC) in Oakland, Calif.

ASIC attendees included regulatory scientists and engineers, air monitoring instrument manufacturers, academic researchers, regional community leaders, and community science groups. I met researchers from all over the U.S., but also Canada, Finland, Qatar, China, and Japan, and I’m sure I didn’t meet everyone.

Calvin Cupini presenting as a part of the Community Perspectives and Connections panel.

AirKeepers program manager Calvin Cupini was invited to ASIC to present as a part of a panel of experts during a session called “Community Perspectives and Connections”, and he provided a talk about AirKeepers progress as well. The invitation alone means that there is wide recognition of the work Clean Air Carolina does in North Carolina.
Calvin made solid observations about community science in general from the experiences collected as a part of Clean Air Carolina, and was constantly fielding questions. My favorite point he made was that community science is happening in both urban and rural North Carolina through the AirKeepers program. The subtext of that point is important: The years that Clean Air Carolina leadership has dedicated to developing relationships with communities throughout the socioeconomic landscape of Charlotte and other urban spaces and with rural communities across North Carolina are an absolutely critical foundation for a healthy community science effort.

Now, we are building on that foundation with high-quality data collection and Clean Air Carolina is supporting the academic and applied research I am leading to scientifically validate low-cost air quality data that is the heart of the AirKeepers Program. Our research poster was called “Comparison and evaluation of PM2.5 measured in an urban setting using a low-cost optical particle counter and a Federal Equivalent Method Beta Attenuation Monitor” and this sort of close, detailed statistical evaluation of data is part of what I do as an academic air quality scientist.

I have been working on the research project with Calvin, staff from Mecklenburg County Air Quality, an environmental chemist from Davidson College, and a University of Arizona environmental health researcher and his graduate student. Our research team has results in hand, and our goal is to publish them in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Stay tuned on that! The poster at ASIC was the “preview” of those results, and we think that after all is said and done, we will understand the data from AirKeepers program even better and be able to relate it to the more accurate high-cost regulatory monitoring that supports the Clean Air Act.

Brian Magi describing results from sensor intercomparison (photo by Megan Green)

Brian Magi ([email protected]), is an associate professor in the department of geography and earth sciences at UNC Charlotte.