“How’s the air up there?”: Queensland Communities Discussing Air Quality

Our Project

Air quality must be monitored and managed to ensure a healthy lifestyle, especially for sensitive groups (e.g., asthmatics, children). Monitoring networks are being improved with low-cost, user-friendly technology (‘KOALAs’) developed by QUT. KOALAs (‘Knowing Our Ambient, Local Air’) are already improving Brisbane and Gold Coast networks, and assisting objectives of the Queensland Family Cohort (QFC) for air pollution measurement for family health outcomes). Longreach was introduced to KOALAs by 2019 QLD ‘Flying Scientist’ Dr Cole-Hunter during National Science Week 2019, with demand growing throughout QLD (e.g., Mackay, Townsville) and globally. Together, we aimed to address this demand and help co-create community-focused tools for air quality.

We intended to coincide community engagement activities with National Science Week 2020, holding a number of events in regional (e.g., Longreach/Mackay/Townsville) and urban (e.g., Brisbane) community/school hubs: sharing findings from 2019-2020’s air quality monitoring studies in Queensland and globally, raising awareness and co-creating new applications and tools for clean air campaigns. Due to the unexpected and unprecedented border closures and social distancing measures to manage the spread of the global pandemic COVID-19, National Science Week 2020 was not conducted as planned – it had to be held completely virtually, as an online, virtual alternative. To take advantage of this adversity, the event and materials were positioned to engage a global audience and promote the work being led from Queensland.

As such, communication (namely promotion) was offered and supported by the official organisers of CitSciVirtual,– the new home of our overall engagement activity. This adapted approach allowed for a global engagement opportunity with the following content now possible to be made public online to a worldwide audience, benefiting potentially thousands of individuals.

A great outcome of all this is the subsequent granting of the Advance Queensland –  Queensland Citizen Science Grant for project ‘“The Air is Fair, Here and There”: Queensland communities assessing and comparing air quality’. This current collaboration aims to better satisfy the concern and curiosity of Queensland citizens by putting air quality information in their hands, thereby, empowering them. More information on this major outcome can be found online.

For more information on the KOALAs and how they operate

Queensland Partners

  • Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (James Cook University), Townsville, Queensland
  • Longreach State High School (Education Queensland), Longreach, Queensland
  • Mater Health (Mater Hospital), Brisbane, Queensland
  • Queensland Centre for Intellectual and Developmental Disability (University of Queensland), Brisbane, Queensland

Our Team

Project Leader

  • Dr Tom Cole-Hunter, Visiting Fellow at International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health (ILAQH), Queensland University of Technology (QUT)


  • Dr Gunther Paul, Associate Professor at Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, James Cook University (JCU)
  • Dr Lidia Morawska, Distinguished Professor and Director of ILAQH, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
  • Dr Rohan Jayaratne, Senior Research Fellow at ILAQH, QUT
  • Dr Vicki Clifton, Principle Investigator for Queensland Family Cohort (QFC), Mater Research Institute – University of Queensland (MRI-UQ)
  • Dr Danielle Borg, Project Coordinator for QFC, MRI-UQ
  • Dr David Harley, Associate Professor at Queensland Centre for Intellectual and Developmental Disability (QCIDD), MRI-UQ
  • Dr Shamshad Karatela, Postdoctoral researcher at QCIDD, MRI-UQ

Events & Media

CitSciVirtual: Local, Global, Connected – Workshop, May 2021 

Our workshop focused on air quality research: what tools we use, the theory behind citizen science in environmental science and examples of real-life data sets from our environmental monitors (KOALAs)! This workshop was timely as recent wildfires (Australia, California, Canada) and COVID-19 have both substantially affected air quality, and provoked a strong interest in climate change, health and inequality issues, on a global scale. We can take advantage of the current public and political will for change, through initiatives addressing these related challenges. Our workshop was/is for anyone interested in how air quality affects our health, lifestyles and wellbeing; and conversely, how our lifestyles affect air quality.

The overall workshop structure, totaling a few hours duration, used three types of asynchronous materials. The prepared content originally posted on the CitSciVirtual Connect platform is now made freely available here for public use.

Link to the Website

Workshop Introduction

Workshop Seminar

Workshop Supplementary Materials

Funding / Grants

  • Advance Queensland – Engaging Science Grants, Queensland Government (2020 – 2021)


Funding / Grants

  • Advance Queensland – Engaging Science Grants, Queensland Government (2020 – 2021)