Aug 212014

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Some Environmentally Smart Ways to Use Your Smartphone

smart-phone-appsAs of January 2014, it’s estimated that 90% of American adults have a cell phone with nearly 60% reporting having a smartphone (1). Last year, 526 million mobile devices and connections were added worldwide with smartphones accounting for 77% of that growth; overall, this increasing trend is expected to result in the number of mobile-connected devices exceeding the world’s population sometime this year (2). As the availability, usage and global spread of mobile technology increases, some people are harnessing this trend to develop new approaches to environmental monitoring. One example of a new mobile app is the AirCasting app via HabitatMap. The AirCasting app lets users record, map and share environmental health data in real-time with Bluetooth enabled Android devices. Types of measurements that can be obtained include sound levels recorded by phone microphone, temperature, humidity, CO and NO2 concentrations recorded by the Arduino-powered AirCasting Air Monitor, and heart rate recorded by the Zephyr HxM. AirCasting is also an open-source project allowing for custom-designed sensing devices to be used in coordination with the app as well.

Another example of a new app is the Visibility app currently being developed by the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering. As opposed to pairing your phone with a sensor device, the phone itself is used to estimate visibility reduction as a proxy measure for airborne particle pollution. The user takes an unobstructed picture of the sky with the phone’s camera and the image is calibrated and sent to a server along with location data to compare image intensity with an established model of sky luminance. The app developers are encouraging people to improve the app by contributing data. For people who are simply interested in estimates of local air pollution based on regional/local air monitors, two more example apps are AirNow from the U.S. EPA and State of the Air from the American Lung Association which provide location specific air quality forecasts and alerts.

Science Policy Groups Spread Across the Tri-State Area as Students Take Charge over STEM Funding and Advocacy

scipolicyStarted by a group of graduate students at MIT during sequestration, the National Science Policy Group is a student spearheaded initiative through which science policy groups across the nation work together to advocate for science-informed policymaking, the continued support of STEM research, and exploration of other issues at the intersection of science and public policy. In addition to well-established science policy groups at schools like UPenn and Yale, newer groups are springing up across the tri-state area, including at Penn State, University of Rochester, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Rutgers University. Through monthly national and regional conference call meetings, the groups share resources, like ideas for community outreach events, and support for newer groups drumming up interest at respective schools. The groups will also host large coordinated events, like Congressional visits to member school’s local representatives in Washington DC. For more information about how the initiative got started check out this article from MIT. If you are interested in starting a group, please contact Sam Brinton at

The Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI) of Rutgers University Welcomes a New Post-Doc to the Exposure Science Program – Dr. Allison Patton

EOHSI welcomes a new post-doc to the Exposure Science program, Dr. Allison Patton from Tufts University. Allison’s journey leading her to the world of exposure science research began upon completion of her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Engineering at MIT; after graduating from MIT, Allison wanted to pursue a research direction that could have real-world impact on public health. She chose to do her PhD work with Dr. John Durant in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Tufts University. Her research focused on developing estimates of residential ambient particle number concentrations for the Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health Study (CAFEH). CAFEH is a coordinated set of Community-Based Participatory Research studies focusing on air pollution and related health effects near highways. Allison and other members of the research team used a mobile laboratory unit to measure traffic-related air pollutants near an interstate highway cutting through Boston, MA and other nearby areas. She used this data to produce hourly estimates of particle number concentrations at the homes of CAFEH study participants.

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Photos by Alonso Nichols/Tufts University

In cooperation with work conducted by students and researchers at other CAFEH participating institutions, Allison’s research will help us to understand the relationship between traffic-related air pollution and inflammation markers of cardiovascular disease. The community based nature of her research also empowered people to take notice of local air quality issues in the Boston area, to advocate for their health, and to support regulations that protect public health by influencing future development near highways. Through her post-doc position at EOHSI, Allison hopes to build upon her research experience with projects that tie in more of a human dimension, including how human activity patterns and use of products affect personal exposures.

Graduate Student Highlight: Michael Jahne, Clarkson University

michael-jahne Under the direction of his advisor, Dr. Shane Rogers, Michael Jahne studies the fate and transport of zoonotic manure pathogens from agroecosystems, including measurement of emissions to air and freshwater resources, modeling of transport in the environment, and quantitative microbial risk assessment. His Ph.D. research focuses on the emission of bioaerosols from manure-applied agricultural lands, using field measurements, real-time qPCR, and the USEPA’s AERMOD dispersion model to estimate emission rates and simulate downwind transport. Predicted exposure concentrations are then used to evaluate risks to downwind receptors, as well as the risks associated with bioaerosol deposition onto food crops, water bodies, and other sensitive land-use areas. His other research interests include the transmission of pathogens and fecal indicator bacteria through agricultural wastewater treatment systems, microbial source tracking, and hierarchal clustering of multidrug-resistance traits. Resulting information will allow farm operators, regulators, and other stakeholders to make informed decisions regarding manure management practices and the risks that they present.

Graduate Student Highlight: Megan Rockafellow, Rutgers School of Public Health

megan-rockafellow Megan Rockafellow is a PhD candidate at the Rutgers School of Public Health (SPH) in the Environmental and Occupational Health Department. She is currently partnering with New Jersey Geological and Water Survey and a local NJ health department on a doctoral research project that focuses on the factors affecting efficacy of arsenic treatment systems for private wells. Such factors may include the influence of maintenance frequency, performance testing, regulations and well-owner beliefs. The study is anticipated to start in October 2014.

Job Postings for Exposure Science

See our employment opportunities page for recent job postings.

Upcoming Meetings and Events

26th ISEE Annual Meeting
Seattle, Washington
August 24-28, 2014

24th ISES Annual Meeting
Cincinnati, Ohio
October 12-16, 2014

142nd APHA Annual Meeting
New Orleans, Louisiana
November 15-19, 2014

33rd AAAR Annual Meeting
Orlando, Florida
October 20-24, 2014