I’m participating in this event organized by Internews at Berkeley on April 30th. I’ll report soon on the technology I’m developing for this project…
Groundtruth and Airwaves: Sensor Networks and Emerging Technology for Environmental Journalism
Technology–as remote as satellites and as close as our smartphones–offers new opportunities for collecting data about environmental topics. Evidence of rising sea levels, poor air quality, noise pollution and more can now be gathered from wireless sensor networks, open public data sets, and user-generated data from social media platforms. These tools make it simpler to gather, analyze and visualize data, helping to drive news stories for journalists and more thoughtful engagement and advocacy by activists.
“Groundtruth and Airwaves” will showcase a number of newsworthy environmental and health-related sensor projects currently underway. After a session of Lightning Talks, working journalists from around the world will join a panel of technology experts and research scientists to explore opportunities and challenges found at the nexus of DIY sensors, crowdsourced data, and environmental and health journalism.
In the past I’ve taught a few years of a Public Health-focused GIS course at Berkeley. And since 2006, I’ve taught a graduate-level course on Health Impact Assessment with Rajiv Bhatia. I’ve also co-taught the MPH-breadth course, Introduction to Environmental Health with Kirk Smith, and even an accelerated online version of the course. I was teaching both semesters, 9 months out of the year.
Because UW is on a quarter system, my required teaching load is less, and there are already existing courses in some of the previous topics that I’ve taught, I have some flexibility in teaching in new areas. To get a feel for the quarter system and teaching at UW in general, I’ll be co-teaching with Chris Simpson, ENVH 555 Instrumental Methods for Industrial Hygiene Measurement: Laboratory. I’m also planning to contribute some lectures and time to Andy Dannenberg’s HIA course, ENVH 536/URBDP536: Health Impact Assessment.
Moving forward, I’ll probably introduce a couple new courses of my own. The first in the fall will likely be a GIS course that makes use of the excellent computer teaching facilities within the school. As usual for my courses, there will be strong practical element to the assignments, and projects that allow students to learn-by-doing and by interacting with other students in teams.
The current drought in California highlights how precious a resource water is to the lives of California residents, the state’s natural ecosystems, and its agricultural economy. Over the last few decades, recycled water — the reuse of treated wastewater — has played an important role in meeting ever increasing demands for water. Since the early days of water reuse, questions concerning the safety to public health have been raised numerous times. And, the practice of quantitative microbial risk assessment has responded by evaluating the efficacy of treatment processes on the removal of infectious agents in wastewater, and by assessing quantitatively using risk models, the potential for water reuse to result in infection and disease in human populations through various exposure scenarios.
I was involved in the quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) modeling for a recent review of water reuse for California’s agricultural irrigation. The QMRA was part of a process that involved input from a panel of experts, who addressed a number of issues relevant to developing assumptions for the QMRA, as well as relevant to the interpretation of the QMRA’s findings. The panel and QMRA were commissioned by the California Department of Public Health, which recognized the need to reassess risks given the potential for increasing water reuse in agricultural irrigation, improved knowledge of the concentrations of microbial pathogens found in wastewater, and new treatment processes. The report of the findings from this process is available here.
For the NIH-funded Black Women’s Health Study, my group is estimating exposures to traffic-related air and noise pollution. Previously, the traffic noise modeling was described here.
I now have preliminary results for NOx (NO and NO2) traffic air pollution dispersion model. The model uses the best available roadway geometries, and traffic data, and emissions modeling to derive estimates of exposures. Moreover, the exposure assessment methodology can be run anywhere in the U.S. The figure shown is a coarse resolution example of the model applied to 5 boroughs of New York City. But, the model is being run to estimate NOx concentrations at the exact residential address of each person in the Black Women’s Health Study.
Currently the model makes use of parallel computing on a high performance cluster so that hundreds of thousands of exposures can be estimated in reasonable amounts of time.
For another application of our traffic air pollutant model see this, as well as recent the publication in Circulation, and conference proceeding from the 2013 Air & Waste Management Association 106th Annual Conference.
Over the last couple years, UC Berkeley researchers (Professors Bayen, Glaser, and Seto) have collaborated with NOKIA on the ClearSky project to use state of the art traffic data from sensors and models to estimate air pollution in metropolitan areas. This builds off of progress our group has made towards the development of flexible interfaces to traffic pollution models. In particular, the ClearSky project makes use of the Rcaline package developed by PhD student, David Holstius. This forthcoming paper describes how various data and models are integrated into the ClearSky system:
Samaranayake S, Holstius D, Monteil J, Tracton K, Glaser S, Seto E, Bayen A (accepted) Real-time estimation of pollution emissions and dispersion from highway traffic.Computer-aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering
Despite efforts to reduce my travel, this month I’m running all over the world. Not good.
But what was good…
At Wireless Health 2013 conference in Baltimore I attended a workshop organized by IDEO — pretty much THE gurus of industrial design. Learned something about their design process, which will be really helpful as my research group designs and develops more technology for Environmental Health. Got to admit, it also renewed my excitement about innovation and entrepreneurship.
PHENOTYPE project meeting in Utrecht. Everyone’s making great progress. Good to see all the partners. Relieved that we came up with concrete plans for the next year. Extra day in Amsterdam was fun.
Now in Chengdu. Quietly catching up with work — Did an all-nighter and made MAJOR progress on instruments for the upcoming HEI and China NSF projects. Giving a talk on mobile technologies for public health to Sichuan CDC tomorrow.
Still to come… quick visit to Yunnan to check on current field work and to plan for next year, then to Korea — 2 talks at Seoul National University.
I’ve started my new position at the University of Washington in Seattle.
The timing couldn’t be better as several new research studies will start this fall.
- The BAAQMD has funded a study, which will allow my research group to evaluate new low-cost air quality monitors, comparing their performance against the Air District’s monitors. This project will allow us to determine best practices for deploying low cost air pollution monitoring in urban environments.
- The Health Effects Institute will fund a new study in the spring, in which we will deploy large numbers of air quality monitors in Alameda County, focusing on near roadway sites. Using scripted experiments, we will compare various approaches to using a dense network of air pollution monitors to estimate individual exposures. This study will inform future air pollution exposure assessments for epidemiological studies.
- China NSF has funded a new study in which we will use low-cost air pollution monitors to estimate exposures to PM, and assess its effects on children’s development in Yunnan, China.
- NIH has funded a new study, in which we will develop systems science models to explore the impact of community-based interventions on the development of young children. This study will use retrospective data from the Women Infants and Children program throughout the LA region.
- NIH will fund a new community-engaged research study with partners in Imperial County to examine PM exposures and their sources. In this exciting study, the focus will be on understanding how various community, academic, and governmental organizations can work together to collect and analyze data, and translate information into policy action.
The above new studies will augment ongoing studies, which are just starting to produce results:
- The NSF Smart Health and Wellbeing study has successfully used Microsoft Kinect cameras to monitor physical activity in older adults in their homes. I have finished a manuscript describing the modeling of these individuals’ behaviors as they interact with technology and Health Coaches.
- The Health Effects Institute’s study of Goods Movement Policies in California has finished its monitoring campaigns, and a manuscript is in preparation describing the reductions in air pollution that have occurred in one of our study regions, the Los Angeles area. This upcoming year will produce land use regression models of air pollution concentrations for the state.
- The Black Women’s Health Study is still working towards compiling traffic data for our main study areas across the U.S. In the meantime, we have refined our traffic noise exposure models, and have readied the CALINE air pollutant dispersion model to estimate exposures for the large numbers of subjects in this study. A paper describing noise in three of our study areas is currently in review.
- The European Commission’s PHENOTYPE study is currently collecting data on greenspace exposures and their associations with health effects using CalFit technology in four European countries. In November, we will meet in Utrecht to review the preliminary findings from this large study.
- The Chinese Kunming Food Environment Study has moved from exposure methods development into a new phase, in which we are conducting an epidemiological study relating food environment exposures to diet and health outcomes in high school adolescents. Various manuscripts related to the use of CalFit phones are currently in review.
- At CITRIS, a number of innovative health technology projects are still in progress. My group will continue to partner with CITRIS-affiliated researchers to develop and study the use of the these technologies in public health and clinical health contexts.
This fall a number of studies will close:
- The CDC PRC-funded Technical Support Center at UC Berkeley has closed in September. Currently, there are no plans to teach HIA at Berkeley due to budget cuts within the School of Public Health. Students and agencies interested in HIA are may seek technical support alternatives at UCLA, UW, and Human Impact Partners. To support ongoing HIA practice, we will continue to work towards publishing our findings related to evaluation of HIA training in the US, and our findings related to the associations between the built environment and determinants of chronic disease.
- The NIH CalFit study is currently in the process of closing enrollment. The project will close at the end of the year. However, future CalFit studies will be conducted by my new lab at UW.
We’ve partnered with Stamen Design — leaders in data visualization on a Knight News Foundation Challenge for Health. And…
We’re one of 40 Semifinalists!
Yay! Check out our submission here.
If we win, the project would allow us to work with Chabot Space and Science Center and Alameda County secondary school students to explore the levels air pollutions at and around their schools and homes. The project will make use of data collected from my groups ongoing research projects: this one, and this one too.
Help us spread the word about the project, and if you like the idea, “applaud” it.
My group at UW will be funded next spring by the Health Effects Institute (HEI) to conduct a 2-year study in which we will deploy over 60 traffic-related real-time air pollution monitors throughout Alameda County. The first study of its kind, the dense monitoring network will provide crucial information on the ebb and flow of traffic related air pollution at extremely fine spatial and temporal scales. The network will enable exposure assessment experiments within Alameda County, which will also be conducted as part of the HEI-funded study. For more information contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just heard good news! NIH is funding our study with Professors May Wang and Mike Prelip at UCLA to apply Systems Science modeling approaches to data from the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program in Los Angeles. This study will evaluate the efficacy of community-based strategies to reduce obesity in this large cohort. This new study will build upon causal inference modeling approaches my group has been applying with the help of Biostats Professor Alan Hubbard at Berkeley. I look forward to working with the many collaborators from UCLA, UCB, Center for Weight and Health, PHFE WIC, LA County Public Health, and Samuels and Associates.