Funded by the Institute of the Museum and Library Services, the Science Museum of Virginia has launched RVAir, a project working with community collaborators to help measure air quality throughout Richmond.
Community science (also known as citizen science) is a collaboration between scientists and public volunteers to gather new knowledge about the world. Community science can transform research and communities. For example, over the last 10 years, 31,000 volunteers have classified 350,000 images of space! The Museum’s 2017 project Throwing Shade mobilized volunteers and partners from around Richmond to evaluate urban heat vulnerability. Data collected by these diligent volunteers helped us to show that temperatures in Richmond during a heat wave can vary as much as 16 °F from the coolest to the warmest places.
The Museum’s current community science project is studying air quality in Richmond neighborhoods and we need you! We need individuals and community partners to help us measure local concentrations of airborne pollution known as particulate matter (PM), a mixture of microscopic particles in the air that has been linked with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
According to our project partners at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Richmond region experienced zero unhealthy ozone air quality days for the first time since monitoring began in the 1970s in 2019 (yay!). However, the National Asthma and Allergy Foundation consistently ranks Richmond as the 12th worst city in the U.S. for asthma sufferers. Why might this be?
Air quality ratings for the entire Richmond area are based on data collected that represents the regional "airshed." We know from studies in other cities that local changes in the environment such as wide streets, traffic volume, close proximity to interstates and the number of trees lining streets can significantly change the amount of pollution in the air we breathe at the hyper-local level.
By getting local experts (you!) to help us get locally-specific air quality data throughout Richmond, we can help create home-grown solutions to Richmond’s climate resiliency challenge.
With collaborative community science projects like RVAir, you get to be part of the magical journey of science by helping collect important information that will have a positive lasting value.
We need collaborators to join us on walks through Richmond neighborhoods to collect data using hand-held AirBeam sensors to test for particulate matter (PM). By joining us whenever you can, you'll be helping us collect data that will be directly uploaded to public, open source GIS maps showing local PM concentrations.
We also need collaborators willing to host a small, outdoor PurpleAir PM monitor at their home, business, community organization, school, etc. The sensor is about the size of a softball, and it must have access to wifi and an outdoor power outlet. The sensor tracks long-term air quality data that is publicly available online. To see all the data being collected by PurpleAir sensors, go here.