Spurred by wildfires, climate change, and the Internet of Things, a citizen science movement takes root as thousands of low-cost air quality sensors are installed in homes and backyards around the world —and scientists are starting to take it seriously

A low-cost air sensor launches a citizen science movement — Inexpensive, easy to install, and able to share data via Internet Wi-Fi, the PurpleAir sensor has gained over 10,000 installations worldwide in just the past five years. Scientists and air quality experts are praising this movement as a success, citing how these sensors help build a more complete picture of air quality as they reach into under-served locations like schools, tribal land, recreation areas and parks. Image by PurpleAir

Adrian Dybwad vividly recalls the day in 2015 when his chance experiment gave birth to his start-up — PurpleAir, a company that would quickly go on to launch a community science movement for air quality monitoring around the world.

The computer scientist and hardware engineer had just purchased his first air quality sensors. Motivated by his own curiosity about the…

Rallied by the motto — “Hard work. Low pay. Miserable conditions… and more!” — young men and women in the California Conservation Corps are busy building trails, clearing fire-ravaged forests, and restoring habitats along creeks, wetlands and beaches. In the process, they make learning science an everyday part of their job.

Habitat Health Check — Members of the California Conservation Corps, in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), identify and count endangered species as they conduct a fisheries survey in a waterway in Northern California. Photo by Hannah Traverse, CCC Corps Network.

When 19-year-old Melina Di Stefano signed up for the California Conservation Corps, she had no idea she’d be helping to save the state’s official amphibian, the threatened Red-Legged Frog.

For young men and women like Ms. Di Stefano, serving in the California Conservation Corps means more than just building…

Aided by science honed over the past 150 years, winemakers across Northern California’s famed Sonoma appellations are starting to take climate change more seriously. How they adapt could revolutionize the wine industry in regions across the globe for the next century.

Welcome to Petaluma Gap, California’s newest viticultural area, where cool fog and soft wind define great wine-making.

Chardonnay Harvest in “The Gap” —Nestled in the southern corner of the Sonoma Coast region, winemakers view Petaluma Gap as a sanctuary, where cooler temperatures and steady winds promote sustainable and prosperous wine production. Just next door, in Napa, grapes are ripening weeks ahead of schedule due to rising temperatures, causing alarm throughout the industry. Photo by Frances Rivetti

Petaluma Gap AVA —To set foot here —planted between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, just 25 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge — is to understand what great wine-making is all about.

It’s here in this hilly terrain…

Along California’s rugged North Coast, an uncommon alliance — including scientists, tribal leaders, fisherman, divers, kayakers and seafood chefs — has joined forces with a common goal: To protect California’s vanishing kelp forests before it’s too late

A diver conducts an underwater survey in one of California’s once vast kelp forests, where climate change and other environmental stressors have combined in a “perfect storm” to spell disaster for kelp ecosystems in recent years — Photo by National Park Service
  • Linked to climate change, a persistent marine heat wave, known locally as “The Blob,” has contributed to a mass die-off along California’s coast, where more than 90 percent of kelp forests have disappeared since 2014
  • Exploding populations of purple sea urchins, which voraciously feed off kelp —yet are delicious for humans to eat — are contributing to the kelp’s demise. …

Scientists, experts and indigenous voices speak up as the Trump administration proposes dredging environmentally sensitive habitat along the Strait.

  • Deeper channels and wider berths are intended to bring bigger ships, clearing a path for CO2-intensive Canadian tar sands from Alberta to Bay Area refineries
  • Considering the hazards of diluted bitumen, experts sort out when and where dredging is good or bad for San Francisco Bay — and what a major oil spill might look like
  • Is California’s pledge for a carbon-neutral future under threat?
Carquinez Strait photo by Richard White

Life near San Francisco Bay Area surrounds us with this gem of nature that is the Bay itself. From almost anywhere, we can feel this inspiring connection to nature, by constantly being in its proximity.

Marine scientists working alongside autonomous vehicles achieve breakthroughs on the high seas never before possible

Massive data collected from drones — and extensions of scientific measurements over vast areas of ocean — combine to help scientists understand changing ocean chemistry, warming temperatures, and oxygen dead zones

July 2018 — Onboard the R/V Falkor, a research ship operated in partnership with Palo Alto-based Schmidt Ocean Institute. Seen above on a recent deployment, this team used new technologies like autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), remote underwater vehicles (RUVs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to vastly extend their coverage area of the Pacific Ocean. The focus of the team’s latest study is the Subtropical Zone, a region half-way between Hawaii and Mexico where cool, nutrient-rich northern waters meet up with warmer, saltier waters from the south. This research is offering new insights into what’s going on in Oxygen Deficient Zones (ODZs). — Photo by Schmidt Ocean Institute

Marine scientists have recently reported stunning success using powerful — yet low-cost — drone and robotic technology at sea. The results point to dramatic increases in the range of scientific observation for ocean research and the amount of data collected — advancing what’s possible for marine science.

By coupling robotic devices with massive amounts…

Despite a 2-year battle to stop the project, Oakland could still soon become the largest deep-water shipping port for coal on the U.S. West Coast

Scientists and environmentalists cite risks to human health

Rising temperatures linked to higher levels of local air pollution

Coal shipments to China would make Oakland part of a global chain of environmental impact

The Oakland Army Base, decommissioned since 1999, once saw generations of soldiers embarking for theaters of war in the Pacific, spanning eras of conflict including World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the First Gulf War.

Today, the same location at the Port…

Sayo Miyagi, here at age 99, lives in Ogimi, a village on the island of Okinawa. Scientists have intensely studied Okinawans, who are among the longest living humans anywhere, to understand the secrets to their longevity. One such study, the Blue Zone Project, points to unique factors that extend life beyond those commonly understood, like diet and exercise. These unique factors come down to having a strong social support network, having a sense of extended family through strong community bonds, doing practices that lower stress, and having a positive sense of life purpose. Photo by Neil Smith.

Focusing on living longer more as an opportunity and less as a problem, studies point to a need for life redesign, emotional and cognitive flexibility.

Need for new societal models to tap into the wealth of human capital from the largest and fastest growing population of older citizens in human history

Since 1900, human lifespan has nearly doubled, adding an extra 30 years of life, on average. This fact has been the lifelong focus of psychology professor Dr. Laura Carstensen, who is founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Through the 20th Century, more years were added to average…

Hard evidence and a recent scientific study point to collisions with ships as top culprit. New technology offers possible solutions

Beach enthusiasts and those living around the San Francisco Bay Area have witnessed a spike in whale deaths in recent weeks.

Since May, no fewer than four such deaths have been documented by local media sources, making images of whale carcasses washing ashore along beaches and in bay estuaries —typically a rare occurrence — a more frequent sight recently.

The scene of whale carcass washed ashore is becoming a more common sight in recent weeks in and around the San Francisco Bay. This blue whale, a rare and endangered species, washed ashore at Point Reyes on June 18. This was the fourth such whale death documented in the area since May. Photo posted by local citizen scientist on West Marin Feed, a Facebook group.

Innovative model-based study

In an innovate recent study, scientists used naval encounter models to estimate how many collisions between ships and…

Email overload costs American business around $1 trillion annually, according to studies.

If you’re like me, you know first-hand about the open secret in business today: email overload is a huge productivity problem. And it’s only getting worse.

But can digital collaboration — tools like Asana, Atlassian, Basecamp, SmartSheet, Podio and others — come to our rescue and save us from email overload?

That’s the question suggested recently by Mercedes De Luca, chief operating officer at Basecamp, the Chicago-based collaboration platform provider, in her recent post, “It’s urgent! (Really?).”

Email Overload — a 1 trillion dollar productivity problem

Just how bad is the email overload problem? Really bad, if you consider just…

Perry Brissette

Science Writing for Humans

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