Public Lab Research note

Barnraising: Oil Response Toolkit Brainstorm

by mathew | November 16, 2012 01:38 16 Nov 01:38 | #4923 | #4923

Oil Response Toolkit Brainstorming

Claudia Martinez Mansell Mathew Lippincott (Mathew) Matthew Pendergraft (Matt) Shannon Dosemagen


Our balloon and kite techniques really came together around the Deepwater horizon disaster, and our spectrometer was born out of a desire for field identification of oil. Although our tools are broadly applicable, by focusing on a specific use case such as oil spill response, we look to build a template for other civic science. projects We can also lay out how to collect "baseline" data which is generally applicable to other larger problems like wetland loss.

When oil spills we'd want to know

  • where is it?
  • how big?
  • concentrations and size related to where I am.
  • is this stuff I found oil?
  • is this oil I found from that spill?

Matt: what I was thinking is, if anyone could take a photo with a camera its difficult, because "is it oil or not" is not necessarily enough, it could be any source. Also, the problem happens first, then we realize we don't have reference data. So pre-prep, establishing baseline for your community, before disaster.

Claudia: with the initial shock of disaster, you don't necessarily know what to do. I'd like a guide, something to do without having to think too hard about it. like "day one, make a map"

As a brainstorming excercise, think back on Deepwater Horizon and ask "what would we have wanted to do on day 1", "on week one"

and connect to outcomes, so "in a month time, day 1 data will be good for x"

How do you talk to the media? hwo do you put together a proposal

Shannon: we're seeing it with Sandy, and the way people are responding. But if there was a hurricane here that would be the last thing on my mind, I'd wonder where my family is, where my friends are.

Matt: yeah, safety precautions first, make sure people know how to be safe

Shannon: and things you can have ahead of time-- you might want plastic gloves, a resparator.

Claudia: with the New York group and Sandy, you have an opportunity to follow what is happening with Sandy. These responses are often not documented.

Shannon: we need to have a good workflow, otherwise people just turn to the first people on the list they know in an area, instead of our reference documents. Create a simple formula, and in multiple formats. printed, online, and video.

Mathew: everybody loves researching something, but they shouldn't have to love our tools to figure out how to use them-- we need quick straight-forward instructions that don't dumb down the material.

Claudia: clarify what PLOTS can do, and where to draw the line, so that people are pointed towards other resources and contacts.

Matt: other things are: would we ever want to push people to take samples. Thats a touchy subject because then we're encouraging a contact risk. you probably do come across people who are gung ho, give'em gloves and bags and they want to go do it.

Shannon: We did have people in the Bucket Brigade who at first were into sampling, but long-term we did end up paying people for taking samples.

Mathew: is that problematic, paying?

shannon: The Bucket Brigate wasn't so much paying for samples, its paying someone to encourage others to take samples. so the samples aren't paid for directly.

it has to be presented in a way that makes sense to the the community. if you're going to do this project there has to be a personal reason that you want to be involved in it.

Matt: thats why I think outreach and finding local intrest before hand is important.

Shannon: Making things visually accessible is important. We make illustrations and comics to go along to make it more digestible. But for our balloon kit we don't make a simple log book to go along with it, and we need to build in these extra elements that go with it.

Mathew: this gets back to our discussion before, sometimes you want to provide just a datapoint, not everyone wants to engage at every level, but every level of engagement should be available.

Matt: that's a good point, and going back to what shannon said, I like not trying to force things, having a rigid protocol, like "you need X to do Y" because that can be paralyzing. Simple things, low barriers to entry are important.

and having info in videos-- that alone increases the outreach.

Mathew: this gets to my beginning with Public Lab- I just built balloons until Stewart showed me-- in person-- how to make maps, I hadn't tried to do it myself. It just seemed vaguely intimidating and hard, but it wasn't.

Claudia: And as a general civic structure, defining what you do, and what others do, so people can get the ideas to go to other response systems, and encourage people to engage whether or not they're using Public Lab protocols or others protocols. and try to embed info about Public Lab into other people's responses, so others point people towards you too.

You know, the UN has the same problems… and everyone falls into this at all levels. Every crisis is re-inventing the wheel.


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