NERDS
FOR
NATURE

From eco-hacking to enviro-sensoring to bioblitzing, we have a fun and fascinating agenda lined up for our April Project Night

Last month’s Brainstorm segment was so much nerdy fun that we’re doing it again! As one Nature Nerd in attendance noted, "The ideas one hears in brainstorming shout-outs are fantastic, original and brave." Come join the fray.

  • Robin Kraft of EcoHack will be back to help us brainstorm project ideas for the May 9-10 eco-tech hackathon in San Francisco (and New York and São Paolo and Madrid).  There will be scores of eco-minded programmers and designers who need environmental research problems to solve and datasets to crunch! So bring your vexing programming conundrums, geo-mapping puzzles, and web app wishlists for the EcoHackers to possibly tackle.



2014-03-18 brainstorm_crop_small.jpg

  • Our first-ever booth at Bay Area Maker Faire is coming up on May 17-18! We are also in discussion with Oakland Museum of California about producing a big  “NatureNerdCon” public outreach and education event there this summer. Our minds are reeling at the amazing possibilities, but we need your input and energy to make it all happen — come help us brainstorm some awesome new Nature Nerd public activities!

  • If you’d like to throw out a new project idea, that’s great! Two-minute pitches or updates for eco-related projects or collaboration requests are always welcome at Project Night.

Also happening at Project Night:

  • Join our water and air sensor roundtable! If you use any sort of air or water quality sensor or instrument for fun, education, or serious research, please bring it along for show-and-tell. We’ll have pH calibration solutions and other water samples to test, let’s figure out which probe works best and why. We’ll also have some water and air quality sensor prototypes in development to discuss and demonstrate. Bring your newbie or nerdy eco-sensor questions and project ideas!

Ongoing Project Needs:

Change Over Time - We’ve got a project using super simple techplus social media to monitor habitat change at Mount Diablo over time. Know about photo-stitching or time-lapse movie making? Help us out!

Nerdsfornature.org - Want to help us make a better home on the web? We are working on a new Wordpress version of our site, and we could use your help!


BERKELEY—On Sunday, April 20, hundreds of citizen scientists will converge on Tilden Nature Area in the Berkeley Hills to search land, air, and water and catalogue as many species of plants and animals as possible in one day.

Thanks to iNaturalist.org and the prevalence of smartphones, the Bioblitz will make scientists of anyone - from dedicated birdwatchers to parents and kids who just happen to drop by.

The event is being coorganized by the East Bay Regional Park District, Nerds for Nature, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Oakland Museum of California.

The aim of the BioBlitz is to get a baseline snapshot of the plant and animal life found at Tilden Regional Park. We’ll be looking for birds, insects, invertebrates, native plants, and whatever else we can find in the area around Tilden’s Environmental Education Center. We’ll be recording our findings with iNaturalist, an app and website that allows anyone to share their wildlife sightings with a global of community of naturalists and scientists.

Event schedule

All events start at the Environmental Education Center at the north end of Central Park Drive

  • 7 am – 9 am: Birds

  • 10 am – 1 pm: general observations (family friendly!)

  • 2 – 5 pm: general observations  (family friendly!)

  • 6 – 7 pm: pizza dinner

  • 7 – 9 pm: nocturnal observations

Please join us for as much or as little of the event as you like.  Sign up and learn more at http://nerdsfornature.org/tildenblitz.

Contacts:


Event URL: http://nerdsfornature.org/tildenblitz

 


If you are alive and reading this blog post, you eat food — that daily sustenance grown mostly by farmers, typically on modest family operations but increasingly by corporate behemoths with little regard for the environment. Fortunately, the environmental, maker, and citizen science movements that have inspired grassroots eco-tech groups like Nerds For Nature, PublicLab, and many others have also sparked up a new generation of tech-savvy, eco-aware farmers who are taking matters into their own hands.



A prime example of this movement is Farm Hack, a community sponsored by the National Young Farmer’s Coalition. Armed with CAD tools and welding machines, Arduino boards and soldering irons, these creative agriculturalists are developing some impressively innovative and low-cost solutions. From open source farm implement designs to remote sensor networks to automated aquaponics systems, accessible, customizable open source agricultural technology (OSAT) is rapidly transforming the world of smaller-scale food production.

So what does this have to do with nature nerds? Well, like the farm hackers, we see that the evidence for an eventual eco-collapse on our planet is becoming more certain. Ocean acidification, global climate change, sea level rise (see Andrew David Thaler’s Drown Your Town for some darkly amusing hopefully-distant-future possibilities), human development and invasive plants encroaching on critical wildlife habitat from all sides, and of course the rapid disappearance of uncountable species is enough to get any thinking person’s attention. We face enormous challenges just to comprehend the Big Picture, much less to do anything about it.

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What Downtown San Francisco might look like if the Greenland Ice Sheet melted, resulting in 7 meters of sea level rise — image from Drown Your Town.

Alas, these same relentless worldwide environmental pressures also presage a coming agro-collapse. Water is running out, intensive Big Ag energy demands are banging up against critical environmental impacts (shale oil extraction vs. fracking vs. dirty coal, oh my!), long-useful pesticides are becoming ineffective due to rapid evolution by targeted pests, and “miracle” GMO technologies run the risk of tragically unexpected consequences. Farm hackers can see the impending disaster all too clearly, and are committing themselves to finding workable solutions.



What can we do to join forces? Let’s start with data. Us citizen scientists are getting pretty good at collecting it, but it hasn’t always been clear how to make it useful. An ingenious new project in California’s vast Central Valley uses large numbers of observations by users of the eBird network to suggest where more wetland habitat is needed on a week-by-week basis. Then using a clever secret bidding system, farmers receive funds from the Nature Conservancy to leave water in their rice fields to accommodate our feathered friends. Environmentalists helping farmers, and farmers helping the environment, all based purely on citizen science data – how’s that for an exciting equation? Consider the ever-growing worldwide database of species observations (500K and rapidly climbing) in our favorite citizen science app iNaturalist and ponder even broader possibilities for collaborative eco-ag research and action.

Now let’s think about data in an even larger context. What do you do with it? How do you control access to it? How do you verify and analyze and visualize and share it? This is a vast problem space that we share with the agro-innovators. And it’s a rapidly changing universe, where we’ll need a collection of experts and specialists and tinkerers and broad-based thinkers to help us make sense of it all. For abiotic and other sensor data, there are a few limited open source options, and there are of course plenty of expensive, proprietary commercial options like Xively. But not so much in between.

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Data Flow Diagrams are one way to manage microcontrollers, sensors, and data with little to no messy programming — ManyLabs image

To remedy this situation, Peter Sand of the educational non-profit ManyLabs (and Nerds For Nature Organizer) is working on a new open source cloud-based data repository and analysis tool for all sorts of sensor data. In fact, he recently sent around a Call For Comments on a detailed proposal (tentatively dubbed ManyData) for a new open source data platform, which could be useful across a staggering array of problem domains, from education to ecological research to agriculture and beyond. It will allow anyone to create and analyze online data sets by uploading from their own environmental sensors, mobile devices, do-it-yourself science equipment, and other measurement tools. Peter expects the software to be in beta release soon, and is seeking funding to tackle the project.

With a bit of imagination and extension via an API, this sort of system makes sense for managing “smart farm” sensor readings, too. And with all of this data in an (optionally) share-able repository with a standard format, researchers from across many disciplines will have a chance to pick up lessons already learned by others, and compare ag, eco, and other sorts of data in new ways.


A recent Verizon ad suggests the enormous potential for remote sensor tech in the exploding “smart farm” market — youTube video via AgroInnovations blog
 

There’s plenty more hectares of eco-ag shared ground to cover, from DIY sensor technologies, to remote, off-grid networking and computing options, to semi-autonomous sensor and observation platforms like drones — we all have a lot to learn from each other. So stay tuned for Part II and beyond in future blog posts, and if you have something to say on any of these topics, please jump into our Nerds For Nature google groups or the FarmHack or AgroInnovations forums.

 

Ken McGary

N4N Organizer


1248 observations, 230 species, tons of fun

Three citizen science cheers to all who joined us last Sunday, February 23 for the first-ever Lake Merritt Grassroots bioblitz!

It’s wild out there!

Thanks to you and the nearly 200 other citizen scientists who participated, the event was a huge success. We logged 67 species of birds, 89 species of plants, and lots of insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and other cool invertebrates using iNaturalist, a citizen science app. We even saw a few reptiles and amphibians— pretty cool for the edge of a brackish estuary surrounded by busy downtown Oakland. We also logged our first bioblitz observation made by a robot (thanks, OpenROV!). Some particularly notable finds included a pseudoscorpion, hammerhead worms introduced from the tropics, a White-lined Sphinx Moth, an endemic introduced sandhopper (wrap your brain around that!), a native limpet and a native spider crab (pretty interesting in body of water dominated by introduced species), an undescribed spaghetti worm, a Tufted Duck (a rarity in the U.S.), and, well, we could go on. It was a day of notability! 

Looking for sweet nerdalicious data? Check out all 1248 observations, and the full checklist of species.

Bioblitz in the news!

We were also thrilled that news of the blitz spread far and wide, with coverage in SFGate (and the print edition of the San Francisco Chronicle) and on ScientificAmerican.com. Also, if you didn’t catch our pre-bioblitz coverage in the East Bay Express, that article can be found here.  

What’s next?  

Our next blitz is March 29 at Crissy Field in San Francisco, and then April 20 at Tilden Park in Berkeley. Sign-ups haven’t started yet for either one, but watch out for more details at nerdsfornature.org/bioblitz.

And if you’re interested in free environmental education, check out Wild Oakland’s list of monthly programs.

Thanks!

The Lake Merritt Bioblitz was brought to you by

With key support from


New Mare Island NerdFest Video!

Well, it took a while to gather and edit all of the content, but finally here’s a short video recap of our NerdFest with USGS back before the holidays. Zip about half-way in to get to the drone video, quite a view from above Mare Island! More details of the event further down this blog.


Kate Wing attended a few of our monthly Project Nights (like the one coming up on Tuesday!) and out of that came this awesome Citizen Science Manifesto.

Give it a read and give it some social media love too!

Photo: Claire Davies, Reef.org


#morganfire04 w/ trailhead

This Friday we installed our first signs in the monitoring change project, an effort to use digital photography and social media to monitor landscape change. The idea is simple: put metal L-brackets in places where you want to monitor change…

#morganfire04 bracket

…encourage people to put their cameras in the brackets and take pictures, then post those pictures to social media using unique tags for each location.

#morganfire04, front

We can use the tags and the APIs of social media sites to harvest the images and make slideshows and/or time-lapse movies to show how the area changes over time. We added the social media component to an original idea by Sam Droege at USGS:

Our pilot project is on the summit of Mt. Diablo, which experienced a dramatic wildfire in September of 2013 dubbed the “Morgan Fire.” We’re hoping to get imagery that depicts the Spring green-up and the beginnings of regrowth following the fire, and now you can help! Next time you’re on Mt. Diablo, look for the signs, put your phone or camera in the bracket, snap a picture, and post it to Twitter, Instagram, or Flickr using the hashtag on the sign. Check out some of the existing images at http://bit.ly/morganfire. Here’s a map of the stand locations:


View Larger Map

Many thanks to our friends at California State Parks and URS for making this possible!


David Lang and Eric Stackpole of OpenROV.com came out to Lake Merritt with a few other Nerds for Nature for a test flight of one of their ROVs in the lake. We’ll have a few of them running during the big Lake Merritt bioblitz on Feb. 23.

Underwater drones!

How can you resist signing up for the blitz? You can’t! So go sign up and tell your friends!

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The white ROV sits atop its yellow box in the foreground while Eric Stackpole (left) checks out a Hugo quadcopter brought by Sean Headrick (right). Photo (c) Damon Tighe, all rights reserved.

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In flight! Photo (c) Damon Tighe, all rights reserved.

We were watching the video feed from ROV on Eric’s laptop. We saw mussels, sponges, barnacles, and more!

Eric Stackpole and paserby driving the Open ROV, Lake Merritt, Oakland, California. Photo (c) Damon Tighe, all rights reserved.


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See below for logo credits.

OAKLAND—On Sunday, February 23, hundreds of citizen scientists will converge on Lake Merritt, the nation’s oldest wildlife refuge, to search land, air, and water and catalogue as many species of plants and animals as possible in one day.

Thanks to technology as common as smartphones and as exotic as robot submarines (ROVs), the Bioblitz will make scientists of anyone from dedicated birdwatchers to parents and kids who just happen to wander by.

The event is being co-organized by a wide range of local groups, from new grassroots efforts like Wild Oakland and Nerds for Nature, to tech innovators like iNaturalist and OpenROV, to long-time local science and education centers like the Rotary Nature Center, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Oakland Museum of California.

The aim of the BioBlitz is to get a baseline snapshot of what wildlife is found at Lake Merritt. We’ll be looking for birds, insects, invertebrates, native plants, and whatever else we can find above the water, in the water, in the mud, and all around the park. We’ll be recording our findings with iNaturalist, an app and website that allows anyone to share their wildlife sightings with a global of community of naturalists and scientists.

Event schedule

All events start at the Rotary Nature Center, 600 Bellevue Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

  • 9-11 am: Bird ID and ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) underwater survey.

  • 10 am-noon: Lake perimeter native land/aquatic plant walk and ROVs

  • 12-12:30: lunch (bring your own)

  • 1-3 pm: Marine invertebrate and mudflat surveys

  • 1-3 pm: Invertebrate survey of the pollinator gardens at the Lakeside Gardens.

  • 1-3 pm: Upland species survey in the park area and surroundings.

  • 3:30-4:30 pm: The Wrap: free snacks and drinks at the Oakland Museum! Get help identifying what you saw. Help others ID their observations.

Please join us for as much or as little of the event as you like.  Sign up and learn more at www.inaturalist.org/projects/lake-merritt-bioblitz

View a printable version of this release.

More images available.

Contacts:

Event URL: http://www.inaturalist.org/projects/lake-merritt-bioblitz

###

Logo credits

Birds, mud, robots. What’s not to like. www.inaturalist.org/projects/lake-merritt-bioblitz

Sources:

"American Wigeon (Anas americana) in flight" © Dominic Sherony, some rights reserved (CC BY).

"Atlantic Ribbed Mussel," © Chris Brown, all rights reserved, used with permission.

"Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)" © 2012 “Mike” Michael L. Baird, mike {at] mikebaird d o t com, flickr.bairdphotos.com, some rights reserved (CC BY)

"Honey Mushroom (Armillaria sp), Southern section Lost Coast, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, California" © Damon Tighe, all rights reserved, used with permission.

Mud flat crab (Hemigrapsus oregonensis), Lake Merritt, Oakland, California © Damon Tighe, all rights reserved, used with permission.

"ORANGE-STRIPED GREEN ANEMONE (Diadumene lineata), Lake Merritt, Oakland, California", © Damon Tighe, all rights reserved, used with permission.

"Pile Worm (Alitta succinea), Lake Merritt, Oakland, California" © Damon Tighe, all rights reserved, used with permission.

The remaining underlying photos are by Ken-ichi Ueda who created the logo.


When the EPA wants to know what’s going on with air pollution, they install a sophisticated sampling and analysis station that can cost upwards of a million bucks. Or they roll out one of their their high-tech air-sleuthing vans, crammed with more specialized mobile electronics than your typical Bond film.

Which is all very impressive, but what if I have asthma or a heart condition and want to know about the pollution on my street? What if you live next to a factory and want to collect data for further investigation? What if we are students or scientists trying to comprehend how pollution propagates in our communities? 

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Shaun’s Bluetooth-enabled mobile gas sensor board. — photo by Shaun Houlihan

 

Unfortunately, air quality sensors that are both relatively inexpensive AND accurate seem to be rare or non-existent. And not without reason: it’s a tricky task. Of course, new technology + inspiration = new opportunities. You may have heard about some of our electronics design and prototyping of less expensive, DIY-type air quality monitors to help address some of these needs. 

To kick things off last year, Nature Nerd Shaun Houlihan developed an impressive PIC-based, Bluetooth-enabled, lithium-ion battery-powered toxic gas sensor board that can communicate with nearby smartphones and laptops. Nature Nerd Peter Sand is also testing a new air quality sensor board that uses a much cheaper (though much less accurate) metal oxide-based air quality sensor for use in his ManyLabs educational environment. You’ll be hearing more about this project soon.



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L to R —> DD Scientific CO sensor, Alphasense reference CO sensor/board, and the new e-chem sensor board on the bench (with scope probes attached) — photo by Ken McGary



What’s New?

And we now have a third brand-new air quality sensor prototype board to tinker with! Nature Nerd Ken McGary just got our new e-chem toxic gas sensor AFE (Analog Front End) board debugged on the bench and roughly calibrated with some Arduino test code, and we have some fun things to show you about our progress so far. 

The board was designed by Shaun, in collaboration with Ken and Peter — who successfully assembled the surface-mount parts onto the boards using his retro-tech “hot plate and a cheap skillet” technique. This new board is intended as a test and development platform for more refined and targeted sensor designs in the future, and as an educational tool for those trying to learn more about these sensors.

What’s An E-Chem Sensor?

This new breakout board provides the electrical interface between a microcontroller (like an Arduino board) and an electrochemical (e-chem) gas sensor cell. These sensors produce a tiny current in a diffusion medium by oxidizing or reducing the target gas. We are starting with carbon monoxide cells, but sensors are available for all sorts of species like carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and so on. 

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Internal structure of an electrochemical gas sensor cell (courtesy SGX Sensortech)

 

These are the same devices used in countless safety monitors for mines, airports, industrial environments, hospitals, homes, and anywhere else there is a potential hazard from elevated toxic gas levels. However, their use in lower-concentration atmospheric sensing applications is more recent, so some subtle effects on their output signals are not yet well understood.

They are also not “gas analyzers”, as they can be cross-sensitive to other gas species, and have other quirks that preclude absolute measurement certainty. But properly used they are impressive sensors that can provide reasonable gas concentration accuracy (within a few percent), sensitivity (down to parts-per-billion levels with some sensors and circuits) and reliability (with a typical service life of several years).

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TI’s LMP91000 Analog Front End chip, the heart of the new sensor board, contains most of the analog circuitry for e-chem sensing — from TI datasheet.

What’s A Breakout Board?

After Shaun showed us his first working e-chem sensor board, we realized that there are other development platforms we’d like to experiment with the same gas sensors on as well — Arduino, RaspberryPi, and others. This wouldn’t be practical with his more specialized design, but Shaun’s gadget included one crucial teeny-tiny surface-mount interface chip that we still needed, the LMP91000 AFE from Texas Instruments.



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Top and bottom copper layers of the e-chem sensor prototyping board — CAD image by Shaun Houlihan



So we decided to develop this new “breakout board” that includes the tiny AFE chip and some other tiny supporting devices (like a TI ADS1115 16-bit Analog-to-Digital converter), along with a clever socket layout that will accommodate several different sensor pin placements. After we worked out the schematic and parts list, Shaun laid out a nice circuit board form factor that can either plug into a standard prototyping breadboard, or can be used as a “Grove-style” sensor at the end of a 4-wire power/ground/I2C serial cable.

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From analog (blue sensor signal out of the AFE chip at the top) to digital (serial clock and data signals on the I2C bus at the bottom), thanks to the ADS1115 A/D converter chip — digital scope capture by Ken McGary



Why Measure Carbon Monoxide?

Simply, to understand and potentially help diminish the complex stew of toxins and particulates that unfortunately find their way into our atmosphere and frequently our lungs. These pollutants come largely from vehicle exhaust pipes but also from industrial processes and power generation plants and even from the effluvia of our own consumer products being manufactured in other parts of the world.

Carbon monoxide is:

  • The most easily-found component of vehicle exhaust and industrial pollution, as typical atmospheric concentrations are in the ppm range rather than ppb. (EPA CO hazardous limits: 8 hours - 9 ppm, 1 hour - 35 ppm).

  • The least corrosive pollutant species and easiest/cheapest/safest to calibrate with using pre-mixed low-concentration gases (technically speaking, CO measurement is the “low-hanging fruit” of AQ sensing).

  • Colorless and odorless, yet deadly in moderately high concentrations, and potentially debilitating with chronic low-level exposure (see Zero to Million ppm CO concentration effects on the human body in this outdated but comprehensive chart).

  • Often a good proxy for other pollutants coming from the same sources (for example, NO2, SO2, fine particulates, and lots of other gunk spewed from diesel and gasoline engines).



How Are We Calibrating?

We are using a high-quality CO-B4 e-chem sensor from Alphasense [$115] for our calibration reference. It uses a recently-developed fourth “auxiliary” terminal to offset temperature and other sensor cell error signals. It is several times more sensitive than typical 3-terminal cells. This model is also much easier to calibrate in the system, as each unit is individually characterized at the factory and bar coded with the results — providing very good accuracy right out of the box.

We also purchased a matching Alphasense Individual Sensor Board (ISB)[$150] that provides amplified and filtered output signals, which are then directly measured by the same 16-bit A/D converter that is watching the AFE output from the sensor under test. Full-scale output for this ISB is 13ppm of carbon monoxide — impressive!

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Dualing sensors in the cal chamber - Alphasense reference sensor using ISB Board (blue) and DD Scientific test sensor using new breakout board and preliminary calibration software — graph by Ken McGary


The other sensor you see in the graph is a less sensitive but much cheaper unit by DD Scientific [$38].There are several vendors of these types of devices, and a major goal is to characterize as many of them as we can get our hands on so that we can make the right cost/performance decisions for particular sensor applications. We are inspired by the efforts of Tim Dye and his associates at Sonoma Tech and beyond as well as the AirCasting researchers, and hope to soon be extending our understanding of these sensors in similar directions.

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The Alphasense CO-B4 Individual Sensor Board (ISB), with an concentration accuracy of better than +/-1% and noise floor of around 10 parts per billion, is our carbon monoxide standard reference sensor, and costs about $300 including fees and postage from the UK. — photo by Ken McGary 



We’re also continuing our development of simple yet “pretty good” calibration rigs for e-chem and metal oxide sensors. We are starting with carbon monoxide and then we’ll tackle trickier species like nitrogen dioxide. We are using premixed cal gases, homemade test chambers, custom Arduino-based valve-metering equipment, and eBay-acquired flowmeters and gas regulators (more details on our new cal methods soon).

This straightforward and relatively inexpensive DIY approach will help us do our initial cal studies with some confidence without breaking the bank on fancy and expensive analytic instruments.This apparatus might also be used for “Cal Parties” and other community-based efforts to better calibrate and evaluate some of the cheaper sensor units that are out there, and could also be replicated for other groups to use in their own sensor projects.



So How Good Are These Sensors, Really?

To give you an idea of what these sensitive environmental sniffers can do, here’s some non-crucial yet sort of interesting preliminary data just from these sensors sitting on the bench. Sensor temperature (a few degrees higher than room ambient) and CO concentration was recorded every minute, starting around midnight.

The temperature data was mostly quiet until the timer on the house thermostat kicked in the burners for the central heat early on a chilly morning. Then the temp data starts to cycle as the furnace maintains temperature in the house. After a several-hour pause in the thermostat programming, afternoon heat kicks in again.

The CO data is pretty boring except for a couple of things: a) the large spike in the middle of the day corresponds to several doors opening up in the house, including the big garage door, so this shows the transient response of the sensor. The second item to notice is the modulation of the CO signal by the house heater in those tiny stair steps on the decay slope. These suggest a usable resolution on the Alphasense sensor of well under 100ppb (The spec sheet claims resolution of <10ppb!). 



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Sensor temperature signal (blue at top) shows mainly HVAC system cycling according to programmable thermostat. Alphasense CO sensor signal (bottom in red) shows large spike from outside (“fresh”) air incursion, then slow decay, with some modulation of CO levels by HVAC system — graph by Ken McGary



How Might We Use These Sensors?

We’re not going to be replacing the EPA vans anytime soon. But we think there are opportunities to develop moderately-priced yet “pretty good” DIY-oriented, well-tested and documented, and open-sourced:

  • Air monitoring stations for schools, towns, and community groups
  • Personal air quality monitors, dataloggers, and mappers for home, school, and work, various field investigations
  • Community-based calibration stations
  • Re-programmable smart sensor/datalogger boards and modules that can be economically adapted to new and novel uses.

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The AirCasting project is an inspiring first step towards DIY air quality monitoring — image from aircasting.org 



One inspiration is the AirCasting project. It was developed as a platform for developing future mobile sensor projects and provides some interesting innovations and very nice (and recently upgraded) smartphone-based software.

Another interesting example is the EveryAware SensorBox project from Belgium, Italy, and the UK. The SensorBox design includes several electrochemical and metal oxide sensors along with an Arduino-based microcontroller core, forming a portable multisensor array or “e-nose” that reacts to traffic-related pollution. There are even efforts to use these to optimize traffic light patterns in real time, thus actually reducing pollution levels rather than just monitoring them.


So What’s Next?

Besides our sensor characterization and calibration efforts, we are also looking at options for commercializing some of these circuits so that other nature nerds can more easily tinker with these useful devices. And we’re looking for funding opportunities and research partnerships, as well, to help us design specialized apparatus and to further refine and document our DIY calibration methods. And we are eager to speak with any community, citizen action, or research group that can help us understand the real-world requirements for such devices to achieve actionable results. 

We have the prototyping hardware, and a growing team with the skills and commitment to take the next steps, so let’s see what we can accomplish next! Maybe we can even come up with the AQ-monitoring equivalent to bioblitzing…

Join the N4N AQ Google Group or contact one of the team members to get involved.



Ken McGary for the N4N AQ Team

[Special thanks to Tony Trocian of SGX Sensortech for some of the information used in this blog post.]