First off, what is CEAMS?

CEAMS stands for “Citizen-Enabled Aerosol Measurements for Satellites.” That sounds cool, but it doesn’t tell you what CEAMS is. CEAMS is a network of citizen scientists taking air quality measurements in their backyards. While that gives you a little more information; admittedly, it is still a lot of jargon-y terms, so we’ll probably need to be more specific.

What (or who!) are “citizen scientists”? There isn’t one universal definition of citizen science. But to us, citizen science is a collaborative effort wherein volunteers help collect scientific data. And this data isn’t just collected for a fun experience; it is collected to help answer real research questions, provide meaningful information to communities, and, hopefully, increase participants’ understanding of science. In CEAMS, this collaboration, or partnership, is between volunteers and scientists at Colorado State University. A partnership implies that we are working together, and we hope that you will see CEAMS that way. Scientists at CSU designed the device that participants will use to collect data (pictured below). Participants set this device up in their backyards and use it to take measurements. Those measurements are sent back to the scientists at CSU who will analyze all of it. And by “analyze”, we mean that they will look at how measurements change over time, compare measurements at different locations, and try to better understand regional air quality in general.

Device designed for CEAMS measurements.

Okay, so we keep mentioning “air quality”, what are we talking about? The device used in the CEAMS network measures air quality three different ways. We will discuss those different measurements more in a future blog post, but the CEAMS measurements are of particles in the air. These small particles can come from a variety of sources (vehicle exhaust, wood burning, road dust, etc.), and breathing in these particles can impact your health. Our measurements will show how air quality changes throughout the day and season, how air quality varies across neighborhoods in a city, and what different sources impact local air quality. There is a lot of exciting information we hope to gain from CEAMS measurements!

Wait, wait! Don’t skip over the “satellites” part! How are these “measurements for satellites”? Right! That is an important part of this project! CEAMS was funded by NASA. NASA has super cool satellites that take pictures of the Earth. Some of these satellites monitor global air quality from space. These satellites are giving us a big picture idea of what air quality looks like. We are hoping that by taking the same measurements of air quality as the satellites do, but from the ground; our CEAMS measurements will help connect the “seams” between these big picture views of air quality and local, “on the ground” air quality.  

There are lots more details and information we can give you, and we will! Keep reading our blog to learn more about CEAMS!