My Research

Working with my current research group, headed by Dr. Michael Hannigan, has provided the opportunity for in-depth research into low-cost sensor validation and the wide variety of potential applications for these systems. I am particularly interested in the following questions…

How can low-cost, next-generation monitoring technologies supplement our existing monitoring systems (FRMs) and provide data that can further the protection of public and environmental health?

How can multi-gas-phase sensor arrays be used to collect data on target pollutants, such as groups of or even specific hydrocarbons?

How can scientists support community-driven science? For example, what additional tools and resources can help to facilitate the collection of high-quality data in community-based projects utilizing more accessible sampling methods? And, what tools or resources can help to better incorporate community-perspectives and local expertise into the project?

Below are some of my current and former projects digging into these questions…

Monitoring in California Communities

With public health research partners from the University of Southern California, and partners in community based organizations, we working with communities to collect neighborhood-scale data that might shed light on how local sources are impacting residents, as well as, learning about how high spatial and temporal resolution sensor data might aid in untangling the complex air quality trends in areas like LA. Additionally, given the community engagement, we are able to explore how leveraging different types of data (i.e., quantitative sensor data and qualitative observational information) may be able to provide a more complete picture of air quality emissions and their effects.

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The MetaSense Project

In a collaboration with researchers at the University of California, San Diego, we are exploring the application of machine learning techniques to sensor quantification. Additionally we have several sensor packages deployed to monitoring stations with varying environmental and background conditions. This data will allow us to explore calibration transferability and also help us to isolate the impact of specific variables on the sensor signals. The availability of a variety of reference signals will also allow for work leveraging multiple sensor signal to better understand and potentially identify local sources.

Education/Outreach & Community-Based Science

In 2013 we began working with a community in rural Colorado – the North Fork Valley.  The NFV is community primarily dependent on agriculture and also several area coal mines, they also face the possibility of increased energy development due to oil and gas extraction activities.  For this reason a local community group (the Western Slope Conservation Center) was interested in collecting data on pre-development air quality conditions.

However, as we began planning we found that local high school teachers were very interested in getting their students involved. What we came to learn is that these rural schools are often under-served in terms of resources and their connections to institutions for higher education. What grew out of this was an education and outreach program combining (1) a project-based learning curriculum, (2) university mentors for high-school students, and (3) low-cost air quality sensors systems in an effort to support these rural students conducting their own air quality investigations.

The curriculum, available on the TeachEngineering Digital Library, introduces air quality background information, monitoring, study design, data collection/analysis, and communicating results.  At which point students conduct their own research project and we provide the support for them to collect, interpret, and present their data.  The curriculum is intended to be versatile for teachers and can be used with our lab’s air quality monitors, but could easily be adjusted if another platform is available.

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As a CU Engage Graduate Fellow, I was also involved in community-based participatory research (CBPR) with a Denver organization, Taking Neighborhood Health to Heart and AGU’s Thriving Earth Exchange. The project began with a community interested in learning more about their local air quality concerns and questions. In the spirit of CBPR, we collaboratively refined the research question, designed a study, and collected data. Since then we have continued to pursue additional iterations of the project, each year responding to what we are learning. There is more info on the Pilot Project here: https://experiment.com/iaq and the project is currently being supported through a US EPA Small EJ Grant.

 

FRAPPE/DISCOVER-AQ Campaigns

During the summer of 2014 our group participated in the FRAPPE and DISCOVER-AQ sampling campaigns, during which a multitude of methods (air craft, satellite, and ground-based) were used to investigate air quality on the front range in Colorado.  Our group was responsible for deploying approximately 20 low-cost monitors, 13 of which were within a 10 x 10 km grid cell.  These measurements allowed us to examine spatial variability of pollutants as well as providing us with the opportunity to co-locate our instruments throughout the field deployment with a variety of high quality reference instruments.

 

Learn more about the other work our group is involved in here: http://hanniganlabs.wixsite.com/cuboulder

 

 

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