The BP Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill occurred while I was completing my PhD in STS at MIT. In response to a fly-over ban that prevented public documentation of the spill by plane, I became part of a community-monitoring project, which used tethered helium balloons with attached digital cameras to map oil impacting the coastline and sensitive wetland areas. Through this work I realized the power and possibility of low cost, do-it-yourself environmental monitoring tools, and collaborated with six others to form a new non-profit organization: Public Lab for Open Technology and Science. The Public Lab founders are featured in the image above: Liz Barry, Shannon Dosemagen, Adam Griffith, Stewart Long, Matt Lippincott and Jeff Warren.
Public Lab is a web-based open source research and development community that produces and uses home-made research tools. While at Public Lab I directed Toxics and Health Research. I continue to volunteer as a Public Lab Organizer and develop many of the project I began while at Public Lab such as methods for mapping Hydrogen Sulfide, a neurotoxic gas produced during oil and gas production and tools for visualizing environmental pollution in realtime.
Public Lab has become an international leader in both the Maker and Citizen Science movements. In 2016 Public Lab was featured in, and a public lab founder Shannon Dosemagen co-authored, the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy an Technology Report “Environmental Protection Belongs to the Public: A vision for Citizen Science at EPA,” which describes the need to “integrate Citizen Science into all aspects of EPA work”.
I have presented Public Lab to EPA Regions 1 and 2 and been a reviewer for EPA’s internal innovation awards. I’m excited to have been part of building a foundation for a deep re-visioning of how people can be involved in science and federal environmental monitoring. I presented the Public Lab work to President Obama and his National Science Advisor at the first White House Maker Faire.
For up to date Public Lab media coverage see here.
Slice of MIT: Chatting with Obama @White House Maker Faire – Nancy Duvergne Smith, 6/27/14
Northeastern News: Remaking Science – Angela Herring, 6/23/2014
Teach STEM Now: Turn a School Laptop into an Inexpensive Spectrometer – Al Chirinian, 1/5/2013
FastCompany.com: A DIY kite to determine if your water is contaminated – Emily Badger, 1/8/2013
Kickstarter: Best of Kickstarter 2012 – Kickstarter, 1/8/2013
Popular Mechanics: 9 Disaster-Relief Inventions – Laura Kiniry, 12/31/2012
Popular Mechanics: Seeing the Light – Adam Hadhazy, January 2013 print edition
Chemical and Engineering News: Do-it-Yourself Spectrometer, Lab in the City – Deirdre Lockwood, 11/19/2012
Homeland Security Today Crowdsourcing Volunteers Contribute To FEMA’s Sandy Response – Dan Verton 11/09/12
MAKE: Raspberry Pi in the Sky! – Kevin Osborn, 11/8/2012
Slashdot: All Over but the Funding: open hardware spectrometer kit – MyBlueVan, 9/22/12
The Wall Street Journal: The Apple/Google Map Wars: what comes next? – Tom Gara, 9/20/12
New York Times: Seeking Brooklyn’s Lost Mass Grave – Justin Burke, 8/25/12
New York Times: For local residents, a mission to clean up the Gowanus Canal – Peter Moskowitz, 7/16/12
The Verge: Occupy maps the skies over May Day protests with DIY balloon cameras– Joshua Kopstein, 5/2/12
Le Monde Science and Techno Section: Les Sciences Citoyennes: Les profanes jouent avec les experts– 3-3-12
New Scientist: Thermal Flashlight ‘Paints’ Cold Rooms with Colour – 3-2-12
NPR On the Media Drones: Coming to a Sky Near You?– 1-13-12
Boston Globe: Knight Foundation Merging Media, Minds and Money– D.C. Denison, 11-11.
The Mobile City (also appeared on Data Driven Journalism): How Kite Photography Can Empower Local Communities– Martin de Waal, 10-11
Creative Applications Network: Mediated Landscapes 03: DIY Cartography (Theory)– Greg J. Smith, 8-11
Tech President: How DIY Science is Solving Ecological Mysteries in New York City– Nick Judd, 8-25-11
BBC Click: How to Create Your Own Aerial Map– 8-19-11
Grist: In the future, cleaning robots will sniff out air pollution– Jess Zimmerman, 7-18-11
Technology Review: Robot lights up at pollution– Kristina Grifantini, 7-17-11
PBS MediaShift IdeaLab: MIT Produces a String of Civic Media Success Stories – Chris Csikszentmihályi, 3-14-11
Good Magazine: Grassroots Mapping: How You Can Create Aerial Cartography for Under $100, and Use It to Do Good – Ben Jervey, 3-7-11
LifeHacker: Weekend Project: DIY Balloon Aerial Photography on the Cheap – Adam Pash, 2-17-11
Wilamette Week: Local Designer To Build Balloons To Help Document Gulf Oil Spill – Ron Knox, 6-25-2010
SolveClimate News: $100 Aerial Mapping Technique Finding Multiple Uses, Grassroots Interest with slideshow – Lisa Song, 2-15-11
Brooklyn Eagle: D.I.Y Mapping of the Gowanus? – Mike Weiss, 1/27/11