Launching Air Quality Monitoring into the 21st Century



We’re excited to announce that Eloise Marais, Research Scientist at the University of Birmingham, is working with the Satellite Applications and Future Cities Catapults as part of our Researchers in Residence Programme! Here is a bit about the project from Eloise:

What are we doing?

This project aims to convert satellite observations of air pollutants and vegetation dynamics into products that businesses, city planners, stakeholders and other end users can use to effectively monitor air quality and green spaces in cities.

The current issue…

Air pollution and lack of access to green spaces impact city sustainability. Cities that have the resources to monitor air quality do this by placing a few air pollutant instruments around the city. There are limits to where and how many instruments can be distributed across a city. This approach also doesn’t tell us about city-wide trends in pollution to evaluate the efficacy of air quality policy and the accuracy of inventories and other tools developed and used by government agencies and environmental consultants. Similarly, cities that keep an inventory of green spaces do this by counting the number and species of trees or the spatial extent of green spaces, but this data is collected infrequently and doesn’t tell us about the health of vegetation.

The solution…

Satellite observations offer a unique opportunity to monitor air quality and green spaces, but these are challenging to use. I will work with experts at Satellite Applications Catapult as a NERC-funded EPSRC Researcher in Residence to make cumbersome Earth observations user-friendly. The tool I’m developing, called TRACE (Tool for Recording and Assessing the City Environment), is undergoing validation with surface observations in Birmingham in collaboration with the Birmingham City Council to then be applied to other cities at different development stages: Johannesburg/Pretoria in South Africa (my home country), Delhi and Bengaluru in India, and Lagos in Nigeria.

Keep an eye out for updates on this 3-year project over the coming months!

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