Citizen Science Talk: Meet Adrian Dybwad from PurpleAir

Did you know we made some of the first air quality monitors in our founder's kitchen?

We’ve grown at lot since then and PurpleAir has big plans for 2023. 

Today, we’re sharing the talk we were invited to by a non-profit group, CleanAIRE NC. You’ll learn all about the story of PurpleAir came to be. Plus, you’ll see how we’re helping communities all over the world further climate science research through our air quality technology.

We’re always looking at what is happening in our PurpleAir Community to see what kinds of projects individuals and organizations are working on and sharing. Together, we’re cultivating a community of scientists and empowering them with the data they need to tackle air pollution all over the world.

Now, let’s dive right in.

What is Citizen Science Talk?

The Citizen Science Talk is an online event hosted by CleanAIRE NC. This October, NC Board Member, Dr. Brian Magi, facilitated the discussion with community scientists and featured our Founder and CEO, Adrian Dybwad as a guest speaker for the event.

Founded in 2002, CleanAIRE NC an air quality group made up of of Mecklenburg County volunteers. And they came together to focus on North Carolina’s air quality. For over two decades, they have been creating community partnerships and educating the public as part of their advocacy.

Over the years, the link between air quality and public health has become more and more important. Despite being invisible, air pollution has major detrimental health outcomes for those already at risk and causes new health problems for everyone as well.

Furthermore, some populations face higher risks. For example, marginalized and overlooked communities like low-income families and minority groups are especially vulnerable. But through advocacy, education, and community-driven research, they are working to protect North Carolina’s air quality and ensure that everyone has access to clean air to live healthier, happier lives.

How PurpleAir Monitors Are Made

In October of 2022, Adrian Dybwad was invited to participate in their Ask Me Anything Citizen Science Talk. As part of our mission to make air quality data accessible to everyone, we were honored to participate.

During the talk, Adrian shared why he first became interested in air quality. It all started with a dusty gravel pit and a simple problem. There weren’t any air quality sensors from the EPA or any other organizations nearby. And so, he went out and bought some air sensors to measure the dust being kicked up due to the strong winds in the valley.

Unfortunately, all the sensors he found were showing different readings that didn’t match the Air Quality Index (AQI) scales. With his background in computer science & engineering, Adrian knew there was a better way. Eventually, he came across laser technology that could read dust particles more reliably.

After a bit of tinkering, Adrian was able to create sensors and started giving them away to anyone who was interested. Eventually, he found enough volunteers willing to host the sensors, and they started building a small network of air quality monitors. Eventually, more and more people were asking Adrian for his air quality monitors. Then, PurpleAir was founded in 2015.

At our core, PurpleAir has always been about community and measuring air quality.

Because of that, we’ve worked with tons of organizations, community organizers, and researchers to help them with their air quality research. Over the last 7 years, we’ve grown immensely, and Adrian even shared a quick tour of the facility where our monitors are put together.

How PurpleAir is Helping Researchers, Schools & Fire Fighters

During the talk, we also share how PurpleAir has been used for all kinds of purposes.

Since PurpleAir monitors came out, you can even see PurpleAir mentions going up on Google Scholar as our devices are cited in academic studies. Because the data is highly precise, many researchers rely on PurpleAir monitors to conduct studies related to air quality research.

Another group using PurpleAir monitors are educators and teachers. Schools have run programs teaching the next generation about air quality by installing air quality monitors on location. Many communities also use PurpleAir monitors to determine when to shut down schools or evacuate a community during dangerous events like wildfires.

Finally, there are also emergency services relying on our data to identify areas with heavy pollution. For example, fire fighters used PurpleAir sensors during wildfires to determine where to set up temporary monitoring for particulate matter. This gave them more insight into the air quality levels in real time, giving them better data to make informed safety decisions for local communities.

Because the PurpleAir data can be accessed by anyone anytime on the PurpleAir Map, we’re able to help in all kinds of ways. As always, we’re thrilled to hear about these projects from members in the PurpleAir community.

For more information, you can watch the Citizen Science Talk at the bottom of this blog.

Get Involved with PurpleAir Yourself

At PurpleAir, there are tons of community projects going on around the world. We’re thrilled to see these kinds of collaborative efforts in the PurpleAir Community, and we look forward to seeing plenty more in the future.

Are you working on a community project with PurpleAir’s air quality monitors?

We would love to hear about it. Share a post in the Community Project forum, then we can highlight your work. Together, we can make air quality accessible for everyone.

Watch The Talk:

In this talk you’ll learn:

  • How PurpleAir was first started back in 2015
  • Community projects happening in North Carolina
  • Tips for maintaining your air quality sensors & so they last a long time
  • How academics, schools, emergency services, & community organizers use PurpleAir monitors
  • Our refurbishment program to reduce e-waste
  • What’s in store for the future of PurpleAir monitors