Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dust Devils

In Ethiopia the Oromo of Gimbie say that the Devil is in the middle of a dust devil and will possess you if it passes over you. There are a few more myths of dust devils here on the wikipedia page. Dust Devils are one of the top ten reasons why I love the desert. These mini-tornadoes are spooky, very common, yet not quite acknowledged in modern society. Freeway drivers don't notice them and weather stations don't report them. How can we not acknowledge a 500 foot tall genie that appears in the desert? They are a striking feature of the American desert that increase in frequency as human development progresses. I see them often during drought conditions, dry agricultural fields, or development projects that have gone bankrupt. My friend Jaime Lopez was driving around the eastern Coachella city limits and came across this one. That brave tractor driver was going where no tractor driver has gone before...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ideas for Laguna Chacas lake water monitoring

We are headed to Laguna Chacas to implement a lake water quality assessment. Here are some links to the ideas that Javier has suggested.

Water Quality
A very good low cost fecal bacteria indicator:
The H2S bacteria test

Riffle sampler for aquatic macroinvertebrates.
Something similar to the Hester-Dendy sampler

Aerial Mapping 
Kite or Balloon mapping:
The biggest expense is helium. You can make balloons from emergency mylar sleeping bags.
We could map sewage outflows and algal blooms

Using RC planes or quadcopters to map algal blooms 
Its more expensive than the Balloon mapping

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Citizen Science: UAS

The citizen science trend is growing as groups are able to now use inexpensive sensors such as those listed on the SEEED wiki (China) or the sparkfun website (USA) or many others.  These are all plug-n-play sensors that anyone can spend a weekend setting up and monitoring their outdoor environment.

One of my citizen science goals is to use Unmanned Aerial Surveillance for environmental monitoring. This can be used for Environmental justice, or for documenting natural phenomena.  There was a recent use of a drone to monitor a meat packing industry's waste to a river. A benefit of UAS (drone) use is that they are not allowed to be used for commercial uses. That means that industry can't use them to collect data on private citizens. Drone operators are forbidden by the FAA to operate them for a profit. The converse of this is that citizens can use them to monitor industry. The UAS are great for environmental justice. A couple of groups using them for environmental purposes are:

Conservation Drones

The Sea Shepards 

Here is the  3D Robotics IRIS.  I plan to equip it with the SHARP PM 2.5 particulate sensor.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Citizen Science: The ideal air quality sensor

I am looking for a particulate sensor that we can use with the Eastern Coachella valley Environmental Justice community. The community member hosting the device will benefit from the technology by understanding their air quality, their health and how it compares to the rest of the world. Its an exercise in public health education and empowerment. When a family hosts a device, it could potentially inform and educate them about the air quality parameters that are used; how their community ranks with the rest of the country and localize some of the air quality warnings.

The ideal outdoor air quality sensor should have the following abilities:
  1. Be robust, small, portable and weather resistant for an outdoor site.
  2. Be unobtrusive in its appearance to detract from vandalism
  3. Have AC and DC power options where it could be run from a battery and/or plugged in
  4. Require none or very simple zeroing and calibrations that can be run by a citizen with a high school education. 
  5. Be net-workable and Geolocated to allow real time comparison on a distributed network
  6. Real-time parameters with no need to send the samples to the lab.
  7. Be less than $100

The PARAMETERS that it should measure are listed on the SCAQMD map site and include:
  • Ground-level Ozone (O3)
  • Particle Pollution, also known as particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5)
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO)
  • Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) and
  • Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2).

Additional parameters relevant for the Eastern Coachella Valley include: 
  • VOCs, combustible gas and Methane: for the frequent odor issues in the area
  • Temperature and Relative Humidity:   to calibrate the other  sensors against
Work already done? 
The reason I am writing this is to see if the work has already been done. I know that a few groups are working on this. Many public buses in San Francisco collect this data, but there are limited sensors available for sale to the public. here are some options that I have seen which approximate most of my requested parameters and criteria. 

DIY projects: 

A community lead sensing network with the sensors, base station and network. It starts with CO and NO2 parameters and you can add on additional sensors such as the particulate counter. There is a pretty good forum on the website with links to many others. You can buy a ready made one from wicked device, then add those particulate or other sensors as plug-and-play.

A DIYer Chris: a website on how to put a particulate sensor together
I thought of starting with the diagrams that this website shows and moving on from there.We are going to order a Dylos air sensor and we already have a hazdust epam5000. 

The most detailed instructions I could find. 

This one has a nice set of DIY instructions but doesn't include the SHARP dust sensor. 

Marketed Solutions:
The Dylos Air sensor: Measure dust for around $300

the Lascar CO sensor: Measure CO and log data for about $150

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Thinking of publishing in an open access journal? Will your tenure track committee notice if the journal has an obscure name? Why don't you publish in the Journal of Applied Public Health Research? Sounds too good to be true?
If you are interested, please read about this sting operation:

I receive many emails per day inviting me to publish in reputable open access journals. My favorite quote is this:

"We are ardent to promote erudite, pragmatic, and contemporaneous research" This is from a journal supposedly based in San Diego. .

There are more interesting guidelines for selecting a reputable journal here:

Friday, January 17, 2014

The TRUE sustainable Energy Source

I like the simplicity and message of this video:

Energy can be obtained from waste-water.

From the film:
"Everyday I have to re convince the same people I convinced  yesterday".. about the energy potential in waste water.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Volunteer for the Phillipines Disaster Response

The LLU is known as a global hub for all aspects of health. Our Public Health Disaster Assistance and Relief Team (PH DART) exists to respond to these types of disasters. Our team is now working with ADRA international to conduct a rapid needs assessment on water and sanitation, logistics, and shelter among other topics in select regions of the Philippines. I believe that we have the institutional responsibility to respond to disasters of this magnitude and we have devoted effort to a relevant response.

We realize that there are now many ways to volunteer for the present disaster in the Philippines. Donations are the obvious choice, but the types of social media and crowdsourcing is now also evolving. Tweets and Facebook entries are now the most common type of crowdsourcing, but often not organized into any central repository that can be used by agents on the ground.  There are now new efforts towards "crowd-crafting" those first-person entries. That "crowdcrafting"  is organized by a new handful of volunteer groups to stand-by and organize the random assortment of tweets, blog posts and facebook entries. A new way to volunteer is to start collaborating online with these groups.  See the TedX talk below.

The Stand By Task Force (SBTF):
A way to organize tweets and make them relevant. They have a defined time span deployment-style response to disasters. You can sign up and when a need is there, they will open the cycle for you to contribute.

Citizen Cyberscience Center

Humanitarian Open Street Map (H.O.T.)
This is a volunteer service that provides agents on the ground in the Philippines with map data. Its a useful URL to find detailed maps and they also collaborate with the SBTF.

Crowd Crafting
This site works with the SBTF.  Go to the micromappers site to join the list serve.

Some other ways for LLU folk to volunteer:

Translators Without Borders

Statistics without Borders