Cloudhack has received the following awards and nominations. Way to go!
The influence of air quality on human and ecological health is hard to overstate, and as such we consider it paramount to complement current data with alternative methods. There is still a lot of room for improvement in terms of satellite precision and accessibility, while ground-level measurements require constant work and maintenance. So we decided to do our part looking for new solutions by making that job easier. We ended up finding such solution in a place we didn’t expect: everyday people and their phone’s cameras.
The key issue to solve was how anyone could generate that information, so that was when bioindicators came into play. By recognizing the predominant lichen species in our city’s trees and providing the user with pictures and a guide to identify them in situ, the information can then be uploaded to our collaborative map and leveraged by both scientists and citizens.
When we started investigating about air quality in Córdoba we quickly found out information was sparse and unreliable. For example we found news sites reporting in April 2017 there hadn’t been any measurements of air quality since 2013, only to report by September that research had resumed and linking to a website that just a year later is already dead. The last widespread article regarding the topic is over 8 years old, and paints a grim landscape regarding air quality.
We eventually realised we could use bioindicators such as lichens, which already had decades of scientific research backing our use case. We were eventually able to find out the lichen species present in Córdoba identifying them in pictures, how they reacted to different pollutants according to a study in our city, how to collect field information about these organisms using a grid method together with different specifications for the selection of the phorophyte, and most importantly what formulae we could use to make sense of the large volumes of data, like IAP (Index of Atmospheric Purity) and Shannon’s Diversity Index.
About the app
How it’s used:
The users are required to select the trees according to a a few conditions:
- Rough crust.
- Diameter of the trunk greater than 10 cm.
- Not injured or painted on.
- Take the picture from the southwestern side of the trunk, at a height of 1,5 to 2 m.
- Angle of inclination of the tree not greater than 10 degrees.
The app allows users to:
Source code for the app is published on :
Source code for the server is published on :
The server is published and running on :
It will provide valuable information for environmental administration and backup projects like the creation of more green spaces, and an affordable alternative to the usual air quality monitoring stations.
Scientist will be able to access all the information gathered in one platform and use it to replicate previous studies and produce new research.
Once enough data is gathered we will be able to estimate air quality and concentration of different pollutants with health effects such as:
- PM10y PM2,5: Increases risk of acute lower respiratory infections, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructed pulmonary disease, and lung cancer.
- Tropospheric ozone: Causes breathing problems, triggers asthma, reduces lung function and causes lung diseases
- Nitrogen dioxide: Increases symptoms of bronchitis in asthmatic children in association with long term exposure and in some concentrations can reduce lung function
- Sulfur dioxide: Causes irritation of the eyes, coughing, mucus secretion, aggravation of asthma and chronic bronchitis, and makes people more prone to infections of the respiratory tract.
This project can be used as a tool to interest students of all ages in environmental responsibility and civic engagement by using the app and its findings at local schools. This may prove to be the catalyst for innovative projects and new scientific vocations.
Many research papers have demonstrated the correlation between lichen biodiversity and the concentration of pollutants, but this app could be used to further investig ate on the topic by studying specific species’ sensitivity and also provide ground level verifications for satellital findings.
Looking Ahead: Plans for Future Development
SpaceApps is a NASA incubator innovation program.