Citizen scientists monitor air quality in response to BC wildfires

The recent wildfires in British Columbia, Canada are affecting air quality in Alberta.  Last weekend residents of St. Albert met at a workshop sponsored by Alberta startup SensorUp associated with  the University of Calgary.  Each resident at the workshop assembled and connect their own fine particle sensor. The sensors measure the concentration of fine particles, 2.5 microns in size, which have been shown to have greater affect on human health than larger airborne particles. The citizen scientists then took their sensor home, and installed it outdoors in their neighbourhood.

Sensors monitoring PM2.5 in St Albert
Sensors monitoring PM2.5 in St Albert. Data collected for citizen science and educational purposes.

Overnight, a distributed, shared, network of PM 2.5 sensors was deployed in St. Albert, with all sensors reporting to a collective map of readings. Citizens were able to monitor air quality in real-time as the B.C. wildfires spread.

The St. Albert deployment is the latest in a Canada-wide program of PM 2.5 sensor deployment, initiated by SensorUp in Calgary. Last October, 50 Calgarians assembled sensors and placed them throughout the city. Natural Resources Canada is now sponsoring the expansion of the program to 500 more sensors throughout Canada.