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Citizen Science


Last updated 4/24/2017 at 8:22am

Citizen science is often referred to as ‘crowdsourcing’ or ‘volunteer monitoring’ and local residents based around the Salton Sea are being asked to take part. The prevalence of air pollution, water contamination and pesticide exposure is affecting workers and their families living in the cities of Indio, Thermal, Oasis, Mecca and North Shore.

In order to combat the rise in air pollution, Dr. Ryan Sinclair, PhD, MPH and graduate student Macy Westbrook, MPH(c) from the School of Public Health in partnership with Comite Civico, IVAN Air, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and PurpleAir are seeking help by encouraging residents to install a PurpleAir sensor in their homes.

These sensors will detect various particulate matters in the air through laser beams. The beams will then calculate either larger dust particles accumulated from the road known as PM10 or tinier particles in the air known as PM2.5 that reduce visibility. Each sensor must be connected to the internet and have an adequate supply of electricity. Data collected will be transmitted to the PurpleAir site, where it will show every hour the current air quality. The quality of air is based on an index ranging from good, to moderate, to hazardous. Good will be represented by the color green with very unhealthy as purple and hazardous as maroon.

Individuals are able to see the air quality in their local area, as well as across the country and around the world.

This data is particularly important for individuals living with asthma or other respiratory diseases to monitor their outdoor activities. Children and older adults are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, stroke and poor lung development. Lower birth rates are also more frequent.

Every week, Westbrook is meeting with community stakeholders to encourage them to support AIResiliency in the Eastern Coachella Valley. “Our goal is to install as many air sensors as we can, especially around the Salton Sea,” Westbrook says.

Too many students and community members are unware of the harmful dangers currently present. Westbrook would like to see this change through continued education programs and encouraging all to “speak with our local policy makers and advocate for new policies.”

To learn more about how to get involved, contact Dr. Ryan Sinclair at or Macy Westbrook at

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