The Gulf Monitoring Consortium (GMC) welcomes the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (Public Lab) as the newest partner in a collaborative effort to detect and respond to oil and petrochemical pollution in and around the Gulf of Mexico. Public Lab has been working with various Consortium members since its founding during the BP Oil Disaster.
Public Lab pioneered balloon and kite mapping techniques, which have been used to map oiled marshes of Louisiana and monitor wetlands restoration efforts along the Gulf Coast. Additionally, Public Lab supports the open source development of low-cost versions of several other important scientific tools, including spectrometers for identifying unknown substances in water samples, infrared cameras for tracking plant health, and monitors for tracking indoor air quality.
Public Lab brings experience, resources and reputation to the Consortium, providing connections to the open-source and Maker communities, and contributing a point of view that sees every resident along the coast as a “citizen scientist.” Public Lab provides the tools necessary for underserved citizens to collect rigorous data using simple, low-cost tools, and educates them on ways to use this data for advocacy around environmental health concerns in their community. Most recently, Public Lab tools have been used in collaboration with the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) to monitor expanding coal/petcoke terminals in Plaquemines Parish, LA, and in partnership with NASA’s DEVELOP program to investigate refinery flaring via DIY distance spectrometry.
The GMC is an innovative partnership combining remote sensing technologies, aerial observation, and photography; and resources on-the-ground and in-the-water to detect, document, and respond to pollution. Each member contributes their expertise to this integrated approach – SkyTruth provides guidance on areas of concern based on image analysis and digital mapping, SouthWings coordinates volunteer pilots to get GMC members in the air to monitor for and document pollution incidents, and Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and Waterkeeper Alliance members such as the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper provide both local knowledge of on-going issues and resources on the surface to “groundtruth” what we observe from the sky. PublicLab equips local groups with co-developed, appropriate, affordable monitoring technologies to make field time more objective and effective.