Seminar: Sensors and Citizen Science

We co-hosted a seminar with NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) with speakers Alena Bartoňová, Guy Coulson and Al Brennan. Citizens are increasingly doing it for themselves when it comes to monitoring air quality. Fed up with air pollution people are using cheap, easily available sensors to measure their local air quality but what are the implications of this trend?

Alena Bartoňová, Guy Coulson and Al Brennan
Sensors and Citizen Science

Low(er)-cost sensor systems for monitoring air quality are increasingly available to groups in the wider public who want action to address the ubiquitous air pollution affecting their lives. Regulatory air quality monitoring and publicly available information services for air quality do not seem to provide the answers, and action to prevent air pollution, especially in cities, is often perceived ambiguously. For this reason, engaged citizens are increasingly turning towards these easily accessible technologies and doing their own measurements. The sensor systems have become a technology of choice for children, students, kindergartens, citizens, municipalities, and national and European authorities. This raises many questions, such as technical questions on quality of the data from these systems, integration of such monitoring data with other information, regulatory use, smart city connectivity, air pollution perception, awareness and not least, knowledge and public expectations.

In Europe in the last decade, many researchers have studied all aspects related to air quality sensors. One of the first large pan-European research projects CITI-SENSE (2012-2016) provided much needed knowledge on possible applications and has enabled organisations such as municipalities in Norway to start building sensor networks (the iFLINK project 2018-2021). All these activities have allowed us to identify the critical steps in using these new technologies, improved our technological know-how, and also enabled us to look critically at the processes of citizen engagement. Alena will share some of the last ten years’developments and the newest understandings.

Presentation: Alena Bartoňová, Citizens and Sensors for Air Quality, pdf
Presentation: Guy Coulson, Sensors and Community Engagement, pdf
Presentation: Al Brennan, Launching Sensor Node, pdf


Alena Bartoňová is Research Director at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), has a background in mathematical statistics and environmental sciences. Her research interests include exposure science; air quality monitoring and assessment; environmental health impact assessment and science-policy-public interface. She has led several collaborative research projects in these areas, including the CITI-SENSE  that tested the application of air sensors across Europe. Click to see Alena’s publications.

Guy Coulson is an air quality scientist and is the Group Manager of NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) Auckland’s Urban Air Quality and Health research group, a position he has held since 2005. Guy is a member of the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities. He has over thirty years’ experience in environmental management, research and consulting including twenty years as an active researcher in atmospheric chemistry and air quality, and six years in a commercial environment as an environmental and technology management consultant. Guy has a PhD in atmospheric chemistry from the University of Essex, an MSc in environmental assessment from Anglia Ruskin University and a BSc in chemistry from the University of Bradford.  He has previously worked as a researcher at the British Antarctic Survey and the University of Essex and as a consultant at Arthur D. Little and Cambridge Consultants.

Al Brennan is the founder and Technology Developer for Monkeytronics Ltd, a Wellington based technology start up. Al comes from an Electronics Engineering background, with 20 years’ experience working for companies such as Agilent Technologies and EADS Astrium. He has worked in embedded software, hardware electronics and FPGA design. He founded Monkeytronics in 2018 to focus on product design to address social and environmental issues in New Zealand. Monkeytronics has recently release Sensor Node, a wireless temperature and humidity sensor for healthy homes.

This event was jointly hosted with NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research).

This seminar took place on 17 April 2019 at the University of Otago, Wellington 23a Mein St, Newtown, Wellington.

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