Earlier this month, under yellow skies from local fires, Downtown Los Angeles recorded the worst smog in 26 years.
Not only is it a public source of local data, it provides students with a scientific dataset about something that impacts them personally.
Assistant Professor of Geography Kelly Huh led the effort to have the monitor installed and has used data from the monitor and the PurpleAir network in lab modules for a number of her classes.
“I want them to understand that air quality monitoring is available to the public,” says Huh.
In each lab, students monitor air quality data for a specific location for two weeks, two times per day, six hours apart. Students often pick their hometown, another local monitor or sometimes a foreign city.
“They monitor the temperature reading, air quality, and humidity from the PurpleAir website and compare that to a second weather monitoring site,” explained Huh. “I want them to learn how air quality, temperature, and wind patterns interact; and how the impacts of climate change influence our daily lives.”
In Physical Geography Lab (GEO 1010L) and Advanced Physical Geography (GEO 3050/L), students gain experience working with scientific data, air quality and the interactions between air quality, temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, smoke, and ozone.
In Introduction to Field Geography (GEO 3090/L), the students already have some knowledge about how to use datasets, so they use the data for urban area applications such as mapping traffic patterns and related pollution to analyze the proximity between urban traffic and air quality.
“I have had similar lessons on air quality in my classes since 2015,” said Huh. “But when I started to include the campus monitor in spring 2019, the students were much more interested. Some students continue to monitor air quality and tell me they are sharing information with their families.”