Recently the EPA collaborated with the NIEHS  Superfund Research Program (SRP) for the Risk eLearning webinar three-part series on  “Using GIS Tools to Analyze, Compute, and Predict Pollution“.

Andy Larkin
Andy Larkin

This final session focused on Community Engagement  and included a presentation by one of our trainees, Andy Larkin, entitled Making models personal: increasing the impact of atmospheric pollutant models by predicting pollutant levels at Android and iPhone locations.

Over 110 people participated on the webinar. Andy provided an outstanding overview of the mobile app he developed and included future directions and needs.

Presenting as part of this Risk eLearning Series let us demonstrate how GIS chips in smartphones could be used to provide personalized information about air quality. ~Andy Larkin

View webinar archive online
For presentation abstracts and the first two GIS webinars, go to the SRP Risk eLearning webpage.

Key points from Larkin’s presentation

  • Smartphones are one of the newest methods available for collecting location-based information. There are currently more than one billion active smartphone users in the world (source:
  • Smartphones can identify a person’s location and pollutant models can predict pollution levels at a given location.  By linking smartphones with pollutant models, it is hypothesized that multiple pollutants can be predicted at smartphone locations.  Geographical constraints are based on the constraint of the underlying pollutant models, and can conceivably cover the extent of the entire world.
  • Sampling and retaining locations at regular intervals can provide a well documented past of predicted pollutant levels at smartphone locations.  Input from the smartphone user about intended future locations can potentially be used to predict pollutant levels at future locations.
  • Sampling data acquired from a group representative of the population can be used to make inferences about spatial and temporal trends regarding pollution level conditions for the entire population
  • To test the proof of principle that smartphones can be linked with environmental maps, Larkin created PM2.5, PM10, and ozone hourly forecast maps for the state of Oregon.  Maps forecast predicted exposure levels at air monitoring stations using Seasonal Integrated Moving Average (SIMA) time series models.  Forecasts at air monitoring stations are then interpolated to cover the entire state using universal Kriging for PM2.5 and PM10, and inverse distance weighing for ozone.  These modeling methods were chosen because they can be validated and evaluated using prediction errors.
  • The future in personal monitoring is combining complementary technologies.
Step 1: The smartphone determines its location and current time, and sends the information to a cloud storage database as a .csv file
Step 1: The smartphone determines its location and current time, and sends the information to a cloud storage database as a .csv file
Step 2: After location values are sent to the cloud storage database, the predicted pollutant concentrations for all models within the database are determined for the given latitude and longitude coordinates
Step 3: Predicted pollutant values and the original information are then returned to the smartphone in a .csv file format

Today, NIEHS highlighted OSU SRC Trainee Andy Larkin from Project 1. Below is the spotlight from the SRP ePosted Notes.

Andy Larkin
Andy Larkin

Andy Larkin is working with David Williams and William Baird at OSU and just started his fourth year as a Ph.D. student. Larkin is doing great work and we look forward to his presentation on atmospheric pollutant models and smartphones in an upcoming Risk e Learning webinar.

Larkin’s Ph.D. research involves several different projects, all of which are designed to bridge the gap between basic research and risk assessment. Larkin is working on computational modeling for predicting biological responses to PAH mixtures, real time forecasts of atmospheric PM2.5, PM10, and ozone for the state of Oregon, and smartphone programs to predict and prevent atmospheric pollutant exposures.

While he has won an impressive seven awards* as a graduate student, he was most proud of winning second place in the Oregon State three-minute thesis competition. Although not the most prestigious of his awards, Larkin explains that, “Creating a summary of a thesis designed to be understood by the public and less than three minutes in length was by far the most challenging presentation of my graduate studies, and it was thoroughly rewarding to have so many members of the general public understand and enjoy the presentation.”

When he isn’t busy working on his outstanding graduate research projects, he enjoys community volunteer work and ultramarathon running. Larkin just ran the Portland Marathon on October 6 and his next ultramarathon is the Florida Keys 100 mile run in May!

After Larkin finishes his Ph.D., he hopes to work for a research group or regulatory agency to develop technologies for reporting real-time risk assessment and risk communication information. He also hopes these technologies will help to prevent unwanted exposures in sensitive populations.

*Note: The Training Core web site shares more specifics about Larkin’s recent awards.