Public Lab Fellows Program
While anyone may join Public Lab and take part in developing and applying do-it-yourself pollution monitoring techniques, the Public Lab non-profit also supports fellowships that emphasize peer production projects working on community environmental health issues. Fellowships activities can include:
- Researching and publishing on methods for accessible community science monitoring techniques.
- Developing, incubating and distributing hardware and software research tools (and associated methodology) that are low cost, easy to use, and modifiable.
- Collectively applying these tools in research and monitoring projects in particular locales.
- Advocating for community-identified goals and objectives by sharing the resulting data and knowledge with peers, regulatory agencies, press, and other stakeholders.
Current Fellowship Programs
About Fellowship Teams
Fellowship teams are financially supported collaborations hosted and facilitated by Public Lab. They advance the impact of localized community science on critical environmental health topics. Read more about Fellowship Teams here.
Fellowship Team Goals
- Short term: to document current efforts in monitoring, organizing, and advocating
- Medium term: to advance monitoring tools, organizing, and advocacy methods
- Long term: to develop network relationships among science organizations, hardware projects & communities, and frontline communities to advance the environmental justice movement.
Current Fellowship Team Projects:
Proposed Huber lumber processing plant and Talon metals mine in Northern Minnesota: The Minnesota Land and Manoomin Protection Project
The beginnings of the Mississippi River run through both Aitkin and Itasca counties in northern Minnesota. These counties are rich with wild rice, wetlands, lakes, forests, and healthy habitat for wildlife. Aitkin and Itasca counties are also historically poor counties. The population is sparse and declining and some communities are concerned about their economies and livelihood. The answer that some have to that is extraction and industry. Currently, there are two proposed projects that threaten the land and the precious manoomin (wild rice) beds, the sacred food of the Anishinaabeg, the people whose land these counties occupy. This project will affect five tribes in northern Minnesota (Leech Lake, Red Lake, Boise Fort, White Earth, and Mille Lacs).
One of the projects is from a North Carolina company called Huber Engineered Woods LLC. They are proposing a 750,000 square foot facility in Cohasset, MN. This facility will require trees from within a 70 to 100-mile radius- 400,000 cords of harvested wood annually to mix toxic materials with to create their product, oriented strand board (OSB) or particle board. Huber has not been transparent about where the lumber for the project will be harvested. The production of OSB requires petrochemicals and glues that create hazardous conditions for workers as well as the environment.
The other project is the Talon Mine that is in the exploration phase in Tamarack, MN. The project would cover nearly 32 square miles of mostly wetlands. This type of underground copper mining is dangerous for the waters, land, and air. Sulfide ores that would be exposed in this project contain metals that can mobilize in the environment. “This type of pollution is commonly referred to as Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) and has the potential to devastate entire ecosystems. The close proximity of sulfide mines to valued water bodies such as lakes and rivers of the Mississippi watershed intensifies the magnitude of this issue. All of the water bodies in the Tamarack area are linked by multiple aquifers.” (https://tamarackwateralliance.org/dangers.html)
We know we have to rely on each other to keep our communities and environments safe. And so, in response to the two proposed extraction projects, we must work together to gather data on all that we can to try to stop these projects before they break ground. Read more about this project and team goals here.
This project includes:
- Bee Kakac: Community Organizing Fellow
- Julia Guerrein: Environmental Policy Fellow
- Giiwedin Howard: Community Engagement Fellow
- Noah Furman: Documentation Fellow
Louisiana Proposed Plastics Plant The Game Over Formosa Project
For years, the St. James Parish community in Louisiana, already struggling with extreme pollution, has been fighting to keep out new industry. The historically black, and now elder, community hosts no less than 11 industrial facilities spanning their mere 258 square miles These include refineries, a fertilizer plant, a steel company, an asphalt company, and several chemical companies. Formosa Plastics, is slated to be a new 2,500 acre project just one mile from an elementary school (Center for Biological Diversity). As a company, Formosa has been a historic bad actor. In its other facilities around the world, it has been the cause for the largest private citizen lawsuit under the US federal clean air and water laws, caused many community threatening and deadly explosions, been the source for major chemical releases, and created at least one major superfund site.
On August 18, 2021 the US Army Corps of Engineers announced it would “require a full “environmental impact statement” (EIS) for the massive petrochemical complex Formosa Plastics proposes to build in St. James. The decision is a major victory for opponents of the plant, who sued to block the project in January 2020, and convinced the Army Corps to suspend its permit” in fall of 2019 (Center for Biological Diversity). For this EIS, the company will be required to “provide a baseline for understanding the current environmental situation” and should also include air, water, historical and economic impacts of the project (AmericanBar.org).
The aim for this project is to regularly collect particulate matter and other air quality monitoring data to grow the body of evidence on the existing levels of pollution to show the pollution burden already borne by the St. James Parish community. We aim for this information to be used in the open comment period of the EIS with the Army Corps of Engineers, to educate and bring others into this work, and provide scientific evidence for why further pollution sources such as the Formosa Plastics, should not be developed in this community. For more about this issue read the Project Scope here and the post on Formosa around the world here.
Fellows working on this project:
- Travis London: Community Fellow and Project Advisor
- Caitlion O'Neill: Environmental Policy Fellow
- Tyler Ellis: Technical Air Quality Fellow
- Allison Woolverton: Documentation Fellow
West Virginia Mountaintop Removal The Mountains and Mines Monitoring Project
For well over a century the coal industry has exploited the people and natural resources of West Virginia. Large scale surface mining, also known as mountaintop removal not only deforests thousands of acres per mine site, but completely destroys the landscape leaving behind only bare rock and rubble. The bedrock that once formed some of the oldest mountains on the planet is blasted apart and turned into toxic dust clouds that settle on the communities below.
Over the years at Coal River Mountain Watch, we have discovered a handful of methods that we employ in the pursuit of chipping away at the profit margins of coal companies. One of the most successful tactics has been in observing, documenting, and monitoring mining activity and reporting on them to the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection in WV). The intent behind this fellowship team is to support our continued work against the coal industry using drones and other forms of observation to document violations of environmental law, and pressure the DEP to take appropriate action.
Fellows working on this project:
- Junior Walk: Community Fellow and Project Advisor
- Elena Peterman: Environmental Policy Fellow
- Jordan Freeman: Documentation Fellow
About Research Curation Fellowships
Research Curation Fellowships enable individuals with experience and interest in an environmental health topic related to air, water, soil/land, or community organizing and advocacy to grow both their personal knowledge, as well as a larger network of collaborators within that topic area on Public Lab’s platforms. Research Fellows will work individually in their research area, and as a cohort among other Research Curation Fellows to share knowledge and best practices across topics. Learn more about Research Curation Fellowships here.
Major goals of Research Curation Fellowships for each topic area:
- Network with scientists, technologists, and/or organizers working in the environmental topic area and invite contributions to Public Lab’s community science resources in this area.
- Organize quarterly virtual events where contributors and other interested community members can connect on the environmental topic.
- Co-organize a once annual, three-month period of focused outreach and content development in their focus topic area with Public Lab’s Research Coordinator, culminating in a half-day event featuring research highlights, community conversations, and demos or live builds of environmental monitoring tools.
Current Research Curation Fellows
- Vania Fong: Air Research Curation Fellow
- Laurel Mire: Land Research Curation Fellow
- Julia Masters: Organizing & Advocacy Research Curation Fellow
- Alejo Bonifacio: Water Research Curation Fellow
Past Public Lab Fellows and their projects:
- Katie Gradowski: Community Technology Fellow
- Mo Langmuir: Community Mapping Fellow
- Sairam Dhandapani: Community Mapping Fellow
- Alahna Moore: Oil and Gas Accountability
- Lemmy Kamau: Frac Sand Sentinel
- Danielle Stevenson: Community Science Soil Testing
- Ann Chen: DIY Oil Testing Narratives
- Matej Vakula: Oil Sheen Testing Fellowship
- Sreyantha Chary: Spectral Workbench macros and recipes
- Will Macfarlane: Hardware Fellow, Oil & Gas Industry
- Yagiz Sutcu: Public Lab beta Oil Testing Kit
- Nick Shapiro: Open Air Fellow
- Don Blair: Open Water Fellow
- Read Holman: Lead Monitoring Network
- Rollin Black: Community Fellow, Oil & Gas Industry
Past Fellowship Teams:
Val Verde Air Quality Monitoring around LA county landfill The Val Verde Air Monitoring Project
This project is based in Val Verde in Los Angeles County, CA where a large landfill has been operating in the community affecting local air quality since 1972. In the community’s fight against the landfill, residents have conducted preliminary air monitoring results that they've shared, documented and reported to every accessible body including to government agencies and the company itself. Having long since established local networks and organizations of support to address these challenges, only one or two people locally are versed in the pilot monitoring program. The intent behind this project is to share existing knowledge regarding the landfill air quality issue with more local community members, train people on how to conduct ongoing monitoring and have an air quality monitoring program that can be effectively shared to the broader Val Verde community.
Fellows who worked on this project:
- Sara Sage: Community Fellow and Project Advisor
- Jeremiah Dockray: Air Quality Monitoring Methods Fellow
- Chris Nidel: Legal Fellow
- Denisse Benitez Nassar: Documentation Fellow