Thomas Viola- Sensor Journalism

In my case study, a group called Public Lab created a couple different sensors using open-source hardware. During the BP oil spill, they actually created an incredibly early example of the concept of a drone, by attaching cameras to kites and using small aircraft to map where oil was making landfall. This allowed them to independently gather their own data that they knew they could trust.

Then, when tar balls and small oil slicks began appearing on the coastline months later, they used homemade spectrometers to “fingerprint” the oil and trace it back to BP, who had been claiming it could have been a result of the minor spills that have happened since. Once again, the spectrometers they used were cheaply made, homemade devices that could connect to a phone or home computer.

I think that an interesting concept to explore along this path of do-it-yourself spectrometry for environmental work would be to connect some kind of air filter to a spectrometer, and use that to measure air quality, much like the air quality egg we used in class. It could be an easy, do it yourself way to make sure you are breathing in healthy air. Combined with an arduino, you could even make a portable one that could be attached to your phone, and taken on the go.