CAMS-Net and AfriqAir General Meeting & Air Quality Conference


The Westervelt Group at Columbia organized and attended the CAMS-Net + AfriqAir annual meeting from March 7-10 this year! 

Spearheaded by Professor Westervelt, with help from Albert Presto (CMU), R Subramanian (QEERI), and Mike Giordano (AfriqAir), the conference served as the general meeting for CAMS-Net and AfriqAir. CAMS-Net (an NSF funded project) strives to create an “international network of networks” to monitor air quality and share data globally, and AfriqAir is one of many networks united by the CAMS-Net project, which focuses on air quality in Africa. 

The conference, which was held at CMU Africa in Kigali, was also a collaborative space for several research groups currently working on air quality research in Africa; in fact, the meeting, which was originally scheduled to happen in 2020, was canceled due to the pandemic, and this gathering marked the first time that several collaborators met each other in person, and was filled with interesting research posters, panels, tutorials and discussions. 

The general meeting had over 70 participants, including almost 60 from universities, governments and local organizations, with representation from over a dozen African countries. 

What was the goal of the conference? 

Broadly speaking, the goal of the conference was to share knowledge surrounding air quality in Africa with collaborators from across the world. In a large continent where research is often done remotely, the conference was meant to foster a conducive environment for discussion while also facilitating an opportunity for local collaborators across Africa to meet in a convenient location. 

At the conference … 

Over the course of three days, the following activities took place: 

  1. Tutorials: low cost sensor training (calibration and analysis) and reference grade monitor training, data sharing and access presented by OpenAQ, satellite data mining, and introductory modeling. 
  2. Announcements and networking: keynote and panel on recent advances in African air quality, group dinner in Kigali, as well as frequent coffee chats, and opportunities to explore the city in a group.
  3. Presentations and posters: research discussions and panels on combining low cost sensors with other data streams, utilizing them for other public health studies, and government actions and use by regulatory agencies. 

Several posters (like these) were presented on tracking and modeling PM2.5 emissions in Africa using GEOS-Chem (3D chemical transport model used freely to investigate atmospheric chemistry) and machine learning with the ultimate aim of improving air quality in the region. Other posters were case studies on low cost sensor networks across Africa, most notably in Angola and in semi-rural Mozambique (where they were used to characterize household air quality). 

Tutorials on leveraging satellite data to understand and visualize atmospheric conditions were also a part of the meeting; other tutorials included a presentation on AirQo, a tool which directs researchers on geographically optimal locations for sensors, and a presentation on the new and improved OpenAQ explorer. 

A talk by Collins Gameli Hodoli on air quality in agricultural settings in Ghana. 

Various presentations and talks, ranging from discussions on differences between the types of air sensors, solutions to sparse data, air quality monitoring in agricultural settings and schools, and government action and community organizing, were also major parts of the conference. 

The meeting provided an opportunity to share ideas and meet collaborators, and several attendees from this event also plan to attend the ASIC conference in Ghana, where discussions surrounding air quality in Africa and its health impacts will continue later this year. 

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