WaterBot featured on The Climate Code blog

in a guest post by Prof. Illah Nourbakhsh

"Six counties are preparing to take on WaterBot on a larger scale in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, epicenters of the Marcellus Shale drilling controversy. As schools and citizen groups take this on, adopting local waterways, measuring them and sharing the data using Fusion Tables, we believe citizens’ abilities to directly impact policy will be greatly amplified, armed as they will be with real data that is easy to visualize and communicate in powerful ways." read the full post

Gigapan in Antarctica

I am a first grade teacher on a scientific research team deployed at Palmer Station, Antarctica.  We are here studying a wingless fly called Belgica antarctica.   It is the southernmost, free-living insect in Antarctica and it's the largest animal that remains on land throughout the year.  As the team's educational outreach coordinator, I used Gigapan technology to connect students in my school district as well as nationally with scientific research taking place at the bottom of the world.  Antarctic Gigapan images can be found on my team's outreach blog at www.crestwoodexplorestheworld.org along with descriptive information and scavenger hunt challenges.  Gigapan gives (preschool-grade 12) students an opportunity to explore detailed images of the Antarctic environment, provoking thoughtful questions and higher levels of learning.

Another successful WaterBot installation

On Thursday December 8, CREATE supported the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to pilot their first WaterBot in Frick Park.  The Parks hope to use it to monitor CSO (combined sewage overflow) from nearby storm drains that have long been a concern in the 9-mile run watershed.  The Parks will use WaterBot as part of their service learning programs, in which youth participate as eco-stewards and volunteer time to clean up the streams.  The weatherproof Bot is secured to a t-post in the ground and the sensor, attached to a cable, floats in the stream, collecting data every 15 minutes.  We look forward to growing the pilot program in the Spring!

After a short picnic of cookies and hot chocolate, Taiji Nelson wades into the creek to determine the best monitoring spot:  somewhere the Bot could be concealed to prevent tampering, but also get the most accurate readings.  Below, Taiji and Max Buevich from CREATE Lab drive the t-post into the stream bed.

A successful installation - the netbook is already picking up data transmitted from WaterBot!

Nearby Nature GigaBlitz starts this Monday

We invite you to participate in the second Nearby Nature GigaBlitz

We urge you to start thinking about possible subjects close to your home, school or work, and then during the solstice week of December 19 – 25 get out and gigapan local animals and plants in all their biodiversity. We would especially encourage prior entrants to re-visit the settings they recorded during the June 2011 gigablitz.

Call for Entries, Nearby Nature GigaBlitz, December 19–25, 2011

In our inaugural GigaBlitz this past June, we expressed our hope that Nearby Nature gigablitzes would “help the GigaPan community more deeply explore, document, and celebrate the diversity of life forms in their local habitats.” You responded with over 70 amazing gigapixel images, and countless snapshots. Our jury looked closely at all of them, wishing each could be held up as shining examples of biodiversity in everyday places. In the end, 8 fascinating entries – each brimming with life – were chosen as best representing the Nearby Nature premise. These are profiled in the November 2011 issue of GigaPan Magazine.

Happy GigaPanning!

Alex Smith, University of Guelph
Ken Tamminga, Penn State University
Dennis vanEngelsdorp, University of Maryland
Mary Jo Daines, Project Director, CREATE Lab

CREATE pilots Waterbot with Loyalhanna Watershed Association!

WaterBot is a citizen scientist project that prototypes a low-cost, easy and mobile method to monitor small streams.  The water-sensing bot measures temperature and conductivity as indirect measurements of Total Dissolved Solids, indicating changes in water quality.  The data is transmitted from the bot and automatically uploaded to waterbot.org in real-time with the goal of empowering communities, educators and kids to monitor and log the effects of industry and pollution on their watershed systems.

On Thursday October 27th, CREATE visited the Loyalhanna Watershed Association in Ligonier, PA, the first to pilot and test Waterbot in a project monitoring the effects of Marcellus Shale Drilling on the streams, lakes and rivers.  The LWA will compare the data with other data loggers that they have been using and posting on their site: http://www.loyalhannawatershed.org/water.asp  
Josh Penatzer and LWA share their expertise in placing sensors and best practices for installing sensors to avoid damage from wind, ice and animals.  The CREATE Lab is excited to use these methods in the future to share cheap water monitoring technology.  A huge thanks to Josh and the Loyalhanna Watershed Association for all their work!
  Look for more information about Waterbot pilot programs and availability in the future.

A T-post installed in the stream bed is a stable way to install a water-sensor.  The post is tether to a tree or other object with a coated steel cable.  The sensor extends from the bot, wrapped in plastic to shield it from the elements, into the stream where it gathers temperature and conductivity data.

Josh of the LWA demonstrates methods for gathering data from sensors in streams with Max.  Right, the Waterbot sensor is weighed down and suspended in the water. 

The CREATE team with Josh's sensor post - Jessica P., Max and Dror!

By Jessica P. for CREATE Lab

My air quality posts

I am a member of the CREATE lab at Carnegie Mellon University (http://createlab.ri.cmu.edu/).
We place robots and sensors in communities to help people better understand (and hopefully empower them to do something about) their environment. We are involved in the development of the public health project described below, currently going after funding. This is how I got to take home some air sensors to play with. Since this project is about awareness, I decided to share my findings with others as I go.
Dror Yaron, Community Outreach

From a proposal the PEMC group (Pediatric Environmental Medicine Center) @ UPMC has just put together:
DOOR TO DOOR (DTD) was conceptualized in collaboration with the Group Against Smog and Air Pollution (GASP), a non profit local organization with 40 years of experience working to reduce air pollution in the Pittsburgh areaand the CREATE laboratory of Carnegie Mellon, an organization that conducts community projects in Braddock.
The municipality of Braddock, once a thriving steel industry, sits along the east edge of the Monongahela River just 20 minutes away from downtown Pittsburgh; this community faces many environmental challenges, including high outdoor levels of fine particulate matter or PM2.5 (Particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter ≤ 2.5 µm). In fact, Braddock and its nearby surroundings have been labeled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as non attainment areas, and the PM2.5 levels here partly explain why Pittsburgh has been ranked #1 in the US by the American Lung Association among cities with short-term highest particulate pollution. Because Braddock is located in the Mon Valley, a geographical area of intertwined hills and valleys, thermal inversions typically produce PM2.5 peak concentrations as high as 180 µg/m. The heavy local traffic flow of trucks heading in and out of its steel mill exposes the population to high Diesel exhaust particles (DEP), which is particularly harmful for children with asthma. Exposure to PM2.5 and DEP or black carbon (BC) is associated with increased airway inflammation, increased risk for asthma exacerbation and reduced lung function. Given the prevailing high average levels of particulate air pollution and the high rates of asthma prevalence in Braddock (Approximately 25% of children), the community of Braddock has organized focus groups of concerned parents and neighbors to increase environmental health awareness, improve quality of life and reduce air pollution exposure. Specifically, the Braddock community is concerned about children’s exposure to particulate air pollution on streets and playgrounds and in relation to Diesel emitting vehicles, including school buses. Our main objective is to develop a personal monitoring network driven by community concerns and observations in Braddock Pennsylvania in order to:
a) assess exposure of asthmatic children to fine particulate matter and traffic emissions. 
b) to reduce the exposure level and health burden associated with these pollutants.