Citizen Science: Air Pollution

This resource is designed to allow post 16 school students to investigate atmospheric pollution using Defra's Air Quality Archive


0 Downloads 17 Files

Climate change and surface air quality are two of the most pressing global concerns as we move through the 21st Century. The impact of air quality on human health is well documented as is the disproportionate impact on the health of the very young and very old. This project will allow students and teachers to interrogate the air quality archives from which they may carry out their own research using freely available data.

A set of resources for primary children (ages 9-11) and secondary children (ages 11-14) to investigate atmospheric pollutioan using Defra's Air Data Archive is available here.

Acknowledgements

This project was developed through a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Research Grant (BB/T018933/1) awarded to Professor Dudley Shallcross (University of Bristol) under the title ‘Using the UK Air Quality Archive in Primary Schools.’

The resources have been developed by Professor Dudley Shallcross, Tim Harrison (Bristol ChemLabS) and Dr Alison Trew (PSTT Fellow) with assistance from Dr Jonny Furze, Dr Anwar Khan, Rayne Holland and Dr James Matthews (Atmospheric Chemistry Research Group, University of Bristol), and Sue Martin (PSTT Programme Director).

OVERVIEW

Introduction

The U.K.’s Air Quality Archive, one of the most extensive in the world, is run by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), a U.K. government department. It contains some 400 million data points. Therefore, a project that utilises this amazing U.K. resource and allows students, their teachers, parents and other stakeholders to learn about and carry out investigations into air pollutants is a great starting point for a citizen science project.

These data are readily accessible from the website portal and contain measurements on primary pollutants such as:

  • nitrogen oxides (NO, NO2),
  • carbon monoxide (CO),
  • sulfur dioxide (SO2),
  • particulates PM2.5 (airborne particles with a diameter less than 2.5 µm) and PM10 (airborne particles with a diameter less than 10 µm).

The measurements are calibrated and have much supporting information in terms of how the measurements are made, where the measurements are made (e.g. by the kerbside, in an urban background location) and the instruments used to make the measurements. These data are extensive in terms of geographical coverage, with most U.K. schools having some network measurements in their vicinity.

Investigations

There are many potential and exciting investigations that can be undertaken. The Atmospheric Chemistry Research Group (ACRG) at Bristol have used the archive extensively with school students to investigate the role of bonfire night on particle levels. This was a project run with secondary students and then became a full research project.

Datasets can be mined and pre-prepared so that teachers can use real scientific data with their children. This avoids issues to do with using the internet. Students are able to investigate and explore this data. A simple starting point would be to look at the mean (average) value of a specific pollutant on different days of the week and to determine if there is a pattern and why. They could then consider the following questions:

  • How do these levels vary from month to month, from year to year, or from location to location?
  • What hypotheses do the children give before they investigate these data and afterwards for the changes they observe?
  • What is the most polluted and cleanest day in a (named) U.K. city?

We have asked the last question with primary school children on many occasions and they predict a wide range of days for both, with excellent reasons. When they look at the data and see that the most polluted day is usually around bonfire night (5th November) and the cleanest day is Christmas Day (25th December), they make some excellent connections. These are just some of the possible investigations and some data derived with children (ages 9-11) from primary schools can be seen in figure 1 showing how particle levels vary in the week of bonfire night.

Figure 1. Levels of sulfur dioxide, PM10 particulate matter (volatile and non-volatile), and PM2.5) at Marylebone Road, London, measured in the first part of November 2018.


Students can look at these data on an hourly scale and determine when in the day is the highest level of pollution and how this varies with month and year.





For enthusiasts

For the more adventurous, more open exploration of the database is possible. Here is a an opportunity for students in schools, and families, to carry out meaningful science investigations, and for adults to engage and understand about pollutant levels in their area and more widespread across the U.K. This citizen science opportunity is not just limited to students of school age.

The materials for this project have been created by Prof. D.E. Shallcross1,2 (Communicating author, dudley.shallcross@pstt.org.uk) and T.G Harrison1.

1 Atmospheric Chemistry Research Group (ACRG), School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, UK

2 Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT)

RESOURCES

Use the headings below to find out how to conduct a citizen science project on Air Pollutants and Air Quality. All of the resources you need are freely downloadable below these headings.

Getting started

We suggest that before starting your research, you read the Background Information on Atmospheric Pollutants and Air Quality.

For more details on air pollutants and climate change, further information is provided below the SUPPLEMENTARY RESOURCES tab.

Starting investigations Using Pre-Prepared data sets

We have prepared data sets (excel spreadsheets), extracted from the Air Quality Archive (obtained 30-31 March 2020), for the 4 capital cities of the home nations (Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London), for the years 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018. The data from a clean air (countryside) site is also available (Auchencorth Moss, Scotland). Only data on the main atmospheric pollutants have been extracted.

You will also find the data sheet for London (Marylebone) 2012 as a worked example showing a few of the many possible ways of looking at the information.

For an explanation of the symbols and units of measurement used in the data sets, download Extracted Data Sets: explanatory notes.

You can access all these spreadsheets by downloading the spreadsheets from each site individually (see zipped files below).

Distance Teaching Project Plan

We have provided an 8-week Distance Learning Project Plan aimed at post-16 students.

It is assumed that students will know how to use the web, Power Point (or similar), manipulate spreadsheets and can organise web conferencing. We suggest a 1-hour weekly teacher contact session (by web link) to guide the students through the resource and tasks to be set, and 2-4 hours per week independent learning or group learning with students working in small groups to discuss their findings.

Carrying out your own research

After using some of the pre-prepared data sets, you may want to investigate the levels of atmospheric pollutants nearer to where you live. You can access data from the UK Air Data Archive. Step-by-step guidance on how to do this is provided in Using the UK Air Data Archive (both Word and Power Point versions are available). You will be able to download graphical data or tabulated data from sites around the U.K.

These are some of the questions that you might like to investigate:

  • What is the most polluted day and cleanest day of the year? - select data from the previous full year (January to December).
  • How does the mean (average) value of a specific pollutant vary on different days of the week? Is there a pattern? Why? - select data from one week.
  • How do levels vary from month to month? - select data from one year.
  • How do levels vary from year to year? - select data from a ten-year or twenty-year period.


docx

Background Information on Atmospheric Pollutants and Air Quality

Background information for post-16 students: what data is there & what does it mean?

DOWNLOAD

docx

Extracted Data Sets: explanatory notes

Guidance on using the extracted data sets and a worked example from London 2012.

DOWNLOAD

zip

Extracted data sets: Belfast

2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018

DOWNLOAD

zip

Extracted data sets: Cardiff

2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018

DOWNLOAD

zip

Extracted data sets: Edinburgh

2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018

DOWNLOAD

zip

Extracted data sets: London

2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018

Note: 2012 contains worked examples of different pollutants.

DOWNLOAD

zip

Extracted data sets: Clean Air Site (Auchencorth Moss, Scotland)

2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018

DOWNLOAD

docx

Distance Teaching Project Plan

An 8-week project plan for post-16 students learning about Air Quality.

DOWNLOAD

docx

Using the UK Air Data Archive for your own research

Step-by-step guidance on accessing data from the UK Air Data Archive

DOWNLOAD

pptx

Using the UK Air Data Archive for your own research

Step-by-step guidance on accessing data from the Air Data Archive

DOWNLOAD

MEET THE SCIENTISTS

To introduce you to modern scientists and to assist in demonstrating that science is carried out by a diverse range of people, we asked climate scientists to provide a short profile of their role in science research. You can download their personal profiles here:

pdf

Meet Dr Rabi Chhantyal-Pun [134.12kB]

DOWNLOAD

pdf

Meet Prof. Mike Davies-Coleman [199.98kB]

DOWNLOAD

pdf

Meet Dr Aoife Grant [157.25kB]

DOWNLOAD

pdf

Meet Mr Tim Harrison [225.46kB]

DOWNLOAD

pdf

Meet Rayne Holland [133.72kB]

DOWNLOAD

pdf

Meet Dr Md Anwar Hossain Khan [213.66kB]

DOWNLOAD

pdf

Meet Warren Joubert [201.50kB]

DOWNLOAD

pdf

Meet Dr Brett Kuyper [182.37kB]

DOWNLOAD

pdf

Meet Dr James Matthews [193.01kB]

DOWNLOAD

pdf

Meet Eleni Michalopoulou [167.93kB]

DOWNLOAD

pdf

Meet Dr Alecia Nickless [194.59kB]

DOWNLOAD

pdf

Meet Professor Dudley Shallcross [258.03kB]

DOWNLOAD

pdf

Meet Dr. Steve Utembe [684.26kB]

DOWNLOAD

SUPPLEMENTARY RESOURCES

The resources below are intended as background reading.

  • An Overview of the Atmosphere - Everything you wanted to know about the air pollution but were afraid to ask!
  • Volatile Organic Compounds - VOCs in UK Air 2000-2020.
  • Climate Models - A deeper look at climate models.
  • Stabilisation Wedges - More detailed information about stabilisation wedges.
  • Background reading list - A list of recent publications.
  • Molecular nitrogen (N2) - an article from School Science Review*, issue 375, Jan 2020.
  • Molecular oxygen (O2) - an article from School Science Review*, issue 375, Jan 2020.

*We are most grateful to the Association of Science Education (ASE) for allowing us to make these articles free to download and would encourage you to look at School Science Review as it is an excellent resource for secondary and primary school teachers.

ppt

An Overview of the Atmosphere and Air Pollution [6.81MB]

Everything you wanted to know about air pollution but were too afraid to ask!

DOWNLOAD

ppt

Volatile Organic Compounds [3.13MB]

DOWNLOAD

ppt

A Simple Climate Model [2.90MB]

A deeper look at climate models.

DOWNLOAD

ppt

Stabilisation Wedges [2.18MB]

More details about stabilisation wedges.

DOWNLOAD

pdf

Background reading [184.20kB]

Climate information - a reading list for interested teachers.

DOWNLOAD

pdf

Molecular nitrogen: inert but essential [664.40kB]

An article from School Science Review (2019)

DOWNLOAD

pdf

O•, O2 and O3: the key to life on the Earth [388.95kB]

An article from School Science Review (2019)

DOWNLOAD

Top

SIGN UP TO OUR MAILING LIST