Each year, a consortium of researcher at the University of Utah gather to discuss problems — and potential solutions — to the region and state’s unique air quality challenges.  

With its complex terrain of mountains and valleys, a shrinking Great Salt Lake that increasingly exposes particulates in its lakebed to the air, and in a corridor of particularly wildfire-prone areas, Utah is in particular need of highly localized and timely air quality monitoring. 

Spearheaded by Kerry Kelly, associate professor of chemical engineering in the John and Marcia Price College of Engineering, efforts to bring such systems online have kicked into high gear this year. 

One of Kelly’s projects, called “Community Resilience through Engaging, Actionable, Timely, high-rEsolution Air Quality Information, or CREATE-AQI, is funded through NSF’s CIVIC Innovation Challenge program. Her collaborators at the U include Heather Holmes, associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Ross Whitaker, professor in the Kahlert School of Computing, Derek Mallia, research assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, and Sara Yeo, associate professor in the Department of Communication. Several state agencies are also participating, including the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, the Utah Athletic Trainers’ Association, the Utah High School Activities Association, the Utah Division of Air Quality and the Utah State Board of Education.

At the summit, several of the projects’ researchers presented their findings about the interplay between outdoor and indoor air quality. Mallia’s work on wildfire smoke, for example, shows that those events can elevate indoor ozone levels more than particulate-trapping wintertime inversions, or even dust events.  

Tristalee Mangin, a graduate student in Kelly’s lab, discussed the CIVIC project’s use of indoor air quality sensors to measure this phenomenon, with an eye toward how the data could be used to improve building ventilation and air conditioning systems. 

Read and watch more coverage of the Air Quality Summit on KSLTV