Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Prezi on Community Mapping

Here is a link to a prezi that we gave on Community Mapping.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


A UN special envoy visited the United States in February 2011. Catarina de Albequerque made several recommendations about access to water and sanitation as a human right. The UN report has many striking paragraphs and sections; typical phrases and descriptions for the developing world, not so typical for our California home.

As usual, the human right to water was the most popular theme. It went to Sacramento and in  2012 was passed as Assembly Bill 685 guaranteeing the human right to water. That was a successful bill,inspired by Dr. Albequerque's visit and a political movement of water access folks.

Despite all the energy around drinking water, there wasn't much ground gained for the  human right to sanitation. There are still many California residents who do NOT have access to functioning sanitation. The UN report recommends placing the human rights to water and sanitation equally at the center of policy formulation.

As topics go, water is always more popular than sanitation. The UNMD goal for water is met for most nations while many have not met the sanitation goal. I saw this popularity first hand in the Haiti disaster response where most first responding NGOs focused on water while leaving millions without any place to deposit their feces. Clean water advocates need to keep this trend in mind. Drinking water is important, but drinking water is also contaminated by feces. Sanitation should be addressed before water disinfection.

My reason for writing this note is to focus on one important quote from the UN report:
"In the United States, it is often the poorest and the most marginalized groups that lack access to sanitation. Without proper sanitation, human excreta contaminate drinking water sources, with severe public health implications." 
This is true for the Eastern Coachella Valley, some parts of the Western Coachella Valley and other areas with wastewater infrastructure built to accommodate temporary homes and not the multi-family living quarters that use the infrastructure.

This is also true for the homeless of urban California. Tim in Sacramento calls himself the "Sanitation Technician". He maintains rudimentary latrines for homeless people and says that he is motivated by the women.  He hauls the sewage himself with his bicycle. I expect a similar situation is here in Loma Linda and San Bernardino. We have a homeless population close to what exists in Sacramento.  I wonder if anyone is doing what Tim does.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Balloon Mapping workshop on Loma Linda Campus

We had  five people participate in the first balloon mapping workshop on Loma Linda Campus. Many people asked "what are you doing?". Nobody seemed to threatened by the process. One major strength that Balloon Mapping has over Aerial Mapping with a quadcopter/RC plane is that balloon mapping is participatory. Everyone has a role in these community mapping workshops. There is a line to hold, a route to scout, photos to take or the public relations required for the many questions.  Aerial mapping with an RC powered device is less participatory as much of the technology is considered to be "hands off".

The camera was set for shooting a photo every two seconds for a good 30 minutes.  We used a canon 260sx with the KAPUAV lua loaded in the CHDK software. I then used Microsoft ICE to throw a few pictures together.  Here is a stitched photo of the LLU Globe (click the photo to zoom in).  More will come later.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Balloon Aerial Mapping BRIEF WORKSHOP

From http://publiclab.org/wiki/kite-balloon-hybrid

A NEW Community Mapping Approach : Balloon Mapping
DATE/TIME: 10/29/14 - 0800 
LOCATION:  Evans Hall turnout in Loma Linda University off of Anderson
24785, Stewart St. Loma Linda, CA 92354
Meet by the Loma Linda University sign in the grass. My grey truck will be nearby.

Balloon (and Kite) photography is a participatory technique used to acquire aerial photographs and qualitative data from participants. It is a fun outdoor activity that takes a little planning and produces a lot of images. It has been used to document contamination from the BP oil spill, neighborhood environmental health issues, urban development issues and many other topics.  The unique thing about balloon mapping is that it requires a team approach and is therefore a qualitative method. Researchers can acquire lots of relevant information from the planning and organizing phase; these facilitate conversations, explanations and justifications for why you would want to photograph sometime from the sky. The most important component of this method is that it is participatory and it generates many different types of data that can be used to advocate for communities.

This first workshop is setup to simply introduce the idea and test fly a balloon with a camera attached. We will meet at Loma Linda University and then travel to a nearby mapping location that doesn't have a lot of obstacles for the tethered balloon.  Come along if you want to collaborate with us on using this method. We will fly some custom designed Mylar balloons and introduce everyone to the general technique. It's really easy!  Later workshops will take the data and generate maps, fly a drone for aerial photography and explore some other techniques.

8am: Meet on the grass and organize transportation to the mapping site (My truck has 6 seatbelts)
8:15am: Travel to the site and prep the equipment and talk to everybody.
8:30am: Fly the ballon
9am: return to LLU

Contact me with any questions:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Balloon mapping in Peru

We wanted to use a balloon to do aerial mapping rather than a drone. Before the Peru trip we assumed that a tethered weather balloon would be more sustainable than using a drone for aerial mapping which can include a downward facing camera gimble.

Mario Melgar students at Laguna Chacas with an aerial mapping weather balloon.

PRE-TRIP hypotheses:
My hypotheses of why a balloon would be preferable to using a quadcopter equipped with a downward facing camera:
  • Inexpensive: helium is the largest expense at about $40 for one balloon.
  • Less accident prone and less costly if an accident happens. 
    • If I crash my quad-copter, the cost could be a few hundred dollars. A balloon won't crash and if something happens, the string will break and you have to go hunt for it.  
  • Faster planning. You just need a balloon, camera and helium.
  • The outsider excitement and alarmist perspective may vary:
    • A community response to what we know as a "DRONE" has some fear associated with it. 
    • This perception changes for a group of people walking around with a balloon on a really long string.  
  • It's a participatory approach that any group can successfully complete in an afternoon or early wind free morning. 
  • It integrates well with other participatory approaches.
Two LLU MPH students walking with a windblown aerial mapping balloon. 
POST-TRIP Perspectives:
Our trip to the rural Laguna Chacas allowed us to work with local high school students and local college students with a participatory approach where we used qualitative methods such as problem trees, free listing, community mapping, biodiversity monitoring.  The community balloon mapping integrated well with the community mapping and transect walks.

Here are some shots of the Laguna Chacas mapping process:
All of us trying out the weather balloon

A possible cause for eutrophication of Laguna Chacas. This may contribute more nutrients then the fish farms. 
Some community mapping at the high school before the balloon mapping.

I'll update this topic as we develop some more trips and the actual map pictures. Currently I have a weather balloon outing planned for some community mapping around S. Cal.

I didn't get a chance to go to the MP this year, but there was a nice billboard at the Airport...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Still room for more: Sanitation-Access Research.

In the last few years there has been an upswing of infection control research within the context of US healthcare. The APIC and other groups are starting to accumulate an enviable amount of fun environmental microbiology field based studies. Scientists are evaluating contamination and health risk of curtains, hands, linens, gowns, tap water and anything else that you can find in a US hospital. My favorite are the copper hand washing sinks.  Those are deluxe!

The biggest source of global fecal contamination still appears to be largely unstudied. A recent editorial in Lancet Global Health discusses this. Stephen Luby states that we still do not have enough data to generate sufficient evidence about the relationship between sanitation and health. He says that this is true because of the wide variety of pathogens, climate, environments, cultures and individual behaviors.  The Luby PDF is here.  More research is certainly complicated but also necessary. I find this promising.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A green grocery bag ban?

Here is a report that summarizes the reusable grocery bag ban trend that is hitting the US for the past 4 years. The article is written by the reason foundation, a libertarian institute in California. The article summarizes many points developed by a lifecycle assessment on plastic bags, a report developed by the UK's environment agency.

That lifecycle assessment has many scientifically valid studies that the average grocery shopper never encounters. The Reason Foundation's report summarizes many of the findings.  

Here is a useful table that details most of the bags available for users.  If I had to choose, I would use the cotton bags simply because they are washable, bleach-able and easy to disinfect.  All the others don't hold up well in the Washing machine. There is fabric technology that integrates disinfectants for infection control scenarios. That would also be an interesting choice. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My IRIS crash in Peru

So I had a crash on my 3dr IRIS in Peru and the details are here.
Here are some of the photos from the timelapse series.

Everything going normal and the IRIS is hovering

Uh oh..loiter doesn't work, I'll try altitude hold...
 Oh no, those don't work..I'll try to get it back in stabilize...
 Maybe RTL...nope...I'll try fly mission...maybe it will go back to California....Stabilize isn't working and it has now started on its fly away...
Still no response...

Click on the picture below you and you can see me starting to run in an attempt to grab the up-and-coming wreckage before someone else does. It is not easy to run/walk through a sewage wetland at 12,500 feet.

Add caption

LUCK #1 - Thankfully it crashed into a bush in a little lake side park. The Mobius camera was in good condition.
LUCK #2 - A nice man saw it and stood next to it for a while and then handed it to me when he saw me running over.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Update on Air Sensors

In a previous blog post, I discussed some ideas on open hardware air sensor designs that could work well for the Environmental Justice community in the Eastern Coachella Valley (ECV). After some months of tinkering, talking and planning,  I realize that that the technology development is probably only about 30% of the innovation required for this type of air monitoring citizen project.

I'll approach this from the end result and talk about goals and objectives first. A reasonable goal would include the end health outcome while also hypothesizing the method for how that objective will be achieved. Here are some examples from similar star grants:

  1. By improving indoor air quality  (IAQ) and reducing environmental asthma triggers this study intends to reduce  asthma symptoms related to tribal home-&-school childhood exposures. 
  2. Some don't list a clear goal on the project description page but have hypothesis and an approach such as this one on water and this one on toxicology. It seems that a clear goal that follows the rules of a good pre 2010 NIH application goal is not necessary here. 
  3. Others have objectives and hypotheses listed like this children's Environmental health Study

Areas for Hypothesis development  
Given all of that, our approach will test some social hypotheses regarding community engagement, community uptake of a sensor method and community participation all the way through to a reliable dataset from a network of sensors.  Most of our project hypotheses will drive these activities and a model engagement strategy will be published from this.

Policy Development? 
The second phase of the approach will focus on the policy development and interpretation from the network data. Our hypothesis is that data from a network of community based sensors can be used for state and federal level environmental health policy and legislative development.

Technical design of sensors? 
Secondary to the above approach is the technical design and function of the sensors themselves. I'm keeping that tech development section as secondary; our project will focus on implementing the "post production" or "post-DIY proven" options.AQI link on this SCAQMD site.  We will devote the first 2 months to this as our project success will depend on our first phase of hacking, field testing and polishing such as this Dustduino, the air quality egg or the aircasting sensor.
The options we will work with should be primarily open hardware but should also be previously developed solutions. We don't want to develop something from scratch but we need sensors that can reproduce an air quality index such as the one listed in the

The USEPA Village Green Project? Great project for where it is, but too vulnerable for the sometimes difficult environment in the ECV.  We want community host homes and centers and not publicly accessible technology to be sandblasted, vandalize or steal.

Click to read about TTinvent
Community Training?A more important tech consideration is the community training portion. This is also a key component because this is when the ECV youth and therefore the ECV community is first involved. One hypotheses is that a constructionist teaching model can be used to first engage community youth.  This is currently used with the contractor TTinvent. The company focuses on challenging grades 4-11 youth at schools to develop technology in an intense weeklong training. After the training, the students are able to not only program and code for arduino sensors, but also use 3D printers and develop functioning devices.  Its an impressive strategy for community engagement and learning.

After the pilot project is implemented in the ECV, we will focus on communities around the railyard in San Bernarduino.

There are roughly six categories of challenges to achieve

  1. Scaling up and troubleshooting the air quality sensors for successful use in a community
  2. Training students and parents on the technology and developing a published training curriculum using a constructionist teaching method
  3. Engaging the community to reliably own, host and maintain the sensor network.
  4. This involves: 
    1. A desirable spread of sensors to cover all areas of concern by the EJ taskforce
    2. A Sustainable Sensor placement with wifi access, protected from environmental and vandalism damage. 
    3. Sustainable real-time data uploads from the sensor to a reliable data network with meaningful results
  5. A method to upload the data to a central server that can be used by the community to:
    1. Obtain real time reliable information 
    2. archived for later analysis
    3. Real time interpretation for the public
    4. Real time automated GIS maps of contaminant levels
  6. Policy development on areas of concern for environmental health issues through communication with community members and the area Environmental Justice Advocacy group.
Maker Space? 
We should include a section on a permanent "makerSpace" "FabLab" in the ECV. This could be in the high school but more appropriately in a community center such as PUCDC's San Juan and Bea Main community center located in the hub of the ECV EJ community. 

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.