Air pollution in the US has been seen as a cost of progress – a necessary evil to have the gains provided by industrial manufacturing. However, black, brown, and rural folks always seem to be caught with the bill for this progress. This “sacrifice” goes largely unnoticed because while we have the government to monitor air quality, monitors are disproportionately placed in locations that have good air quality. The federal government has recently made a large investment for monitoring air pollution to identify environmental injustice across the country but communities still need digital infrastructure of WiFi and outdoor power in order to use the sensor technology. Unfortunately, there is a strong overlap in locations that have air pollution problems and lack of digital infrastructure. We need to remove barriers for communities to document and share their air quality issues in order for us to truly achieve environmental justice.

You can help us launch our latest community science initiative Spidey Sense-r, a network of air quality monitors using tools people already have available: spider webs. Metals in the air settle as dust and drift onto webs. People learn how to identify and collect webs, log coordinates and send them to our lab where we identify the type and amount of metals in the sample. With spider webs as bioindicators, we detect differences in air quality at the neighborhood level. We need to amplify community-controlled monitoring to set air quality standards that center the most oppressed and impacted people.

We are starting with three communities in North Carolina, three communities before expanding statewide. If you are interested in seeing Spidey Sense-r in your community, please contact us at