Fast forward to today: with support of two EPA Healthy Communities Grants, KSC and SWRPC conducted yearly outreach and education campaigns to inform the public of the need to use "up to date" clean burning wood stoves, burn only seasoned wood and to follow other EPA BurnWise Principles. KSC then started a citizen science program where volunteers host real time air sensors from Purple Air www.purpleair.com . This data is transmitted to the "cloud" and then retrieved, analyzed and mapped to www.keenecleanair.org, which was developed by Keene State faculty Dr. Chris Brehme and John Woodward. Keene residents with air monitors (and without!) can all look to this website and check on the air quality in real time during the winter. Additionally, KSC faculty Dr. Tom Webler helped develop a Facebook platform that engages the public in encouraging voluntary participation in NO BURN evenings, or evenings where air inversions are predicted.
Many of the pieces are coming together but there is much room for improvement for air quality in Keene. While we have active citizen science participation, we do need more engagement during evenings of air inversions. We have learned that education and outreach must be conducted frequently, and yearly. Many residents do not know about the issues and others are eager to do more, but timing is everything. Facebook has benefits as a platform but it is not working well to notify residents quickly enough to act during predicted air inversions. We also need continued research to develop a predictive model for air inversions on a local scale, as the wider regional weather predictions often "miss" when air inversions actually occur in Keene. Our future research is directed towards developing models for prediction, better notification and engagement platforms for citizens, and social science research to understand how to build a self-regulating compliance system where residents will voluntarily opt out of burning to protect the community's air quality. Additional research is being conducted in collaboration with Dartmouth College to understand the unique toxicological "fingerprint" and chemical composition of Keene woodsmoke and the direct impact on the health of Keene residents.
In the past 10 years, dozens of students contributed to this work in various ways: conducting exposure assessment and air monitoring, developing topographic maps, surveying woodpiles, giving public presentations, performing data analysis and installing air monitors. It has been exciting for students to learn and apply science in their community in a way to actively improve environmental and public health.