Meet Yahn Olson, Summer Legal Intern

Meet Yahn Olson, Summer Legal Intern

Meet Yahn Olson, Summer Legal Intern

What is your major at Samford and why did you choose it? I majored in History at Pacific Lutheran University in Seattle and went to Samford for law school. I have always wanted to be an attorney.

What do you hope to do after you graduate? Once I graduate I plan on going to Officer Candidate School and joining the Navy as a JAG.

What is your dream job? US Navy JAG.

What do you hope to learn while interning with Gasp?  I hope to learn everything I can about working in a legal environment, and learn how to put things I’ve studied in school into practice.

Why is our mission to reduce air pollution important to you? I think environmental issues in general affect everybody greatly, but are easily overlooked because the effects of pollution are not always visible. I’ve always been an outdoorsy person (fishing, backpacking, snowboarding) and want to help out in a field that I have a passion for. I’d like generations after me to be able to experience the outdoors in the way I did.

What is your favorite food?  I’ll eat just about anything but seafood and Mexican food top the list. I also love pizza. 

What are your hobbies?  I like to do almost anything outdoors, especially on the water. I played lacrosse growing up and in college, so I still like to toss the ball around from time to time as well.

Who or what are your influences?  My biggest influence in life is my dad. He grew up in rural Idaho and went on to be a Navy officer for over 20 years. 

What are some other fun facts about yourself?  I worked at a beach resort on Pensacola Beach before law school and was a jet ski tour guide for awhile. I also have a Great Pyrenees mix named Aspen that weighs about 35lbs and is only 4 months old.

Meet Sidni Smith, Gasp Legal Intern

Meet Sidni Smith, Gasp Legal Intern

Meet Sidni Smith, Gasp Legal Intern


Sidni E. Smith

What is your major and why did you choose it?

I am a dual-degree JD/MPH student at Cumberland School of Law and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I pursued this pathway to learn how the legal world works so that I can effectively implement policies that positively impact people’s health and our environment. I see law as a great tool to advance public health initiatives!

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

Go on vacation! Between present-day quarantine and the 90-day Bar exam preparation that awaits post-graduation, I want to spend two weeks out of the country (maybe in Australia) to relax, rest, and reset myself. To answer the real question, I have no idea and I am fine with that. I am a planner at heart funny enough, but I find myself allowing everything to fall into place these days. 

What is your dream job?

I wouldn’t call it a job. Whatever I do will be ministry for whoever I am supposed to reach. I want a platform that allows me to share the love of Jesus and speak up for those who are unable to speak for themselves. I want to ensure that vulnerable populations obtain justice, especially as it concerns public health and environmental issues. Ministry, social justice and policy work, and advocacy pretty much sums up what I envision!

What do you hope to learn while interning with Gasp?

I enjoy non-profit work! Seeing how another organization effectuates change in the community provides me with tons of insight and inspiration. I want to learn how to help my community from this angle, so as an intern I am able to obtain a different perspective on how to connect with communities and serve them well. Most importantly, I want to see how law and public health work together at the non-profit level while I gain essential research, writing, service, and advocacy skills in the process.

Why is our mission to reduce air pollution important to you?

There is something about knowing that the very communities affected by toxic air and polluted environments are my very own. As an African American female in Birmingham, I understand adversity on several levels. I am totally empathetic to individuals who feel like systems do not consider them and society makes them targets. Everyone deserves access to clean air to ensure a more quality, healthier life. While I am heavily grieved by what communities like North Birmingham are facing, I am also grieved that it only represents a snapshot of what many communities around the world experience. Our leaders, community members, and each of us individually… WE must do better and be better about caring for one another! Gasp’s mission to reduce air pollution is one of the many ways to help, serve, and protect our communities and the people in them.

What is your favorite food?

Starch! Meals that incorporate potatoes, rice, and pastas are always a go-to.

What are your hobbies?

Fitness, hiking, fishing, sleeping, cooking, organizing, volunteering, writing poetry, and shopping (yes, even online shopping)!

Who or what are your influences?

My faith in God and my family. Knowing that God has a calling on my life and also having a loving and supportive family are reminders enough to keep going, to love hard, to be grateful, to serve, and to be a blessing to others at all times!

What are some other fun facts about yourself?

  • I am five feet tall.
  • I love heavy lifting and weight training.
  • I enjoy fishing. 
  • I love candles and scents that smell really good.
  • I do not watch much TV, but when I finally do, I end up binge-watching shows for way too long. Haha!

The Science Behind Satellite-Based Air Quality Monitoring

The Science Behind Satellite-Based Air Quality Monitoring

The Science Behind Satellite-Based Air Quality Monitoring

By Ben Moose, Gasp Spring Intern

In my last blog post, I provided an overview of the concept, methods, advantages, and disadvantages of remote atmospheric monitoring. In this post, I will describe, in more detail, the techniques satellites use to detect air quality – how instruments can measure the concentration of gases and pollutants remotely. I will focus specifically on the TROPOMI device to illustrate the capabilities and recent advancements in the field, as it is one of the newest and most effective devices for air quality measurements.

How does TROPOMI measure pollutants?

As noted in my last post, TROPOMI allows beams of light reflected off of the atmosphere to enter the device. Instruments in the device then determine the wavelength of the measured light using wavelength detectors. As different gases in the atmosphere absorb light at different wavelengths, TROPOMI can determine the concentration of different gases in the atmosphere by comparing the wavelengths of reflected light to sunlight. For example, ozone absorbs light energy at wavelengths of approximately 500 – 700 nanometers. TROPOMI compares a sample of light directly from the sun to a sample of light reflected through the atmosphere, and the difference in light energy at wavelengths of 500 – 700 nanometers illustrates the concentration of ozone in the atmosphere. This process is called spectrometry, and the instrument used in TROPOMI is a multispectral imaging spectrometer, as it can detect a variety of wavelengths of light across different spectrums.

Why is TROPOMI so useful compared to other satellites?

Range of measurement: TROPOMI, unlike other satellites used to detect air quality, can measure wavelengths in multiple different spectrums. Specifically, the device can detect wavelengths in the ultraviolet, visible, near-infrared, and short-wave infrared spectrums. TROPOMI’s access to a variety of different wavelengths allows it to simultaneously detect multiple gases that absorb different wavelengths of light, allowing the device to measure a wide range of pollutants and indicators of air quality that other devices cannot measure. The image on the right illustrates TROPOMI’s measurement capabilities.

The bands of wavelengths at which different gases or pollutants absorb light energy are visualized with white bands on the chart, and the measurement abilities of different satellites are included at the top and bottom of the image. As shown in the chart, TROPOMI can detect substances in the atmosphere that absorb light at wavelengths of approximately 250-500 nm, 700-800 nm, and in a narrow band above 2000 nm.

Accuracy and resolution:  As the above visualization of the satellite ranges illustrates, other devices such as SCIAMACHY and GOME have very large ranges of wavelength detection, allowing these satellites to measure more indicators than TROPOMI. However, the main factor setting these devices apart is the resolution. While TROPOMI can measure pollutants and gases at a 7.0 km x 3 km resolution for most scans, SCIAMACHY’s resolution, for example, is about 200 km x 30 km. This huge difference in resolution allows the newer TROPOMI device to more accurately measure air quality with local measurements, despite its lack of ability to measure some air quality indicators. The visualization below illustrates the  resolution of the four satellites included in the above chart, centered around the Amsterdam area.


Useful additional resources

This World Meteorological Organization site provides information about the different measurement capabilities of the TROPOMI device, as well as other satellite devices. It includes a list of different air quality and atmospheric indicators (gases, pollutants) and the satellite’s  effectiveness at measuring each one, along with the measurement method. 

This page of the Delft University of Technology’s website outlines the benefits of TROPOMI when compared to other satellites, and is the source of the images used in this post.


An Overview of Remote Atmospheric Monitoring

An Overview of Remote Atmospheric Monitoring

An Overview of Remote Atmospheric Monitoring

Data from the TROPOMI device illustrating the patterns of sulfur dioxide spread in Norilsk, Russia. Topography and wind speed as illustrated in the data overlay, have significant impacts of the spread of polluted air. Source: Jonathan Amos, BBC.

By Ben Moose, Gasp Intern

What is remote atmospheric monitoring?

Remote atmospheric monitoring, when used for air quality monitoring purposes, is the use of satellites and satellite instruments to determine the concentration of pollutants and other air quality indicators present in the atmosphere. One leading organization in the field of satellite air quality detection is the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS). CAMS uses atmospheric computer-based models, along with satellite data and surface-based sensor data, to develop maps and measurements of global air quality. In order to collect satellite data, CAMS uses TROPOMI (Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument), a device on the Sentinel – 5P satellite which collects information about multiple air quality indicators and their atmospheric concentrations at an unprecedented resolution.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of remote air quality monitoring when compared to direct detection?

Accuracy – Although not as locally accurate as a surface-level air monitoring device such as those installed by the EPA around the country, TROPOMI can measure some air quality indicators such as sulfur dioxide at a 3.5km x 7km resolution, allowing for not just national, but regional and local air quality to be measured. This level of accuracy enables the detection of specific areas in which air quality issues need to be addressed. For example, TROPOMI data from Norilsk, Russia is shown in this image, illustrating the capability of the Sentinel – 5P satellite in terms of local air quality observation.

Cost – Although expensive to develop the equipment on the Sentinel – 5P satellite, TROPOMI allows for global atmospheric monitoring. On the other hand, EPA – installed local monitors can cost upwards of $10,000 just for sensors detecting one indicator, and can only gather data from a fixed location. Because of this cost difference, remote monitoring is the most efficient and practical method of gathering air quality data for most of the country and world, with a likely exception being urban areas with highly variable air quality based on specific location, time, or season.

Reliability – Many surface-based air quality monitoring sites do not regularly measure some air quality indicators. For example, the EPA network of sensors includes multiple devices in the Birmingham metropolitan area, but the most recent data points for many indicators such as sulfur dioxide are months in the past, so current air quality data is difficult to obtain. On the other hand, the Sentinel – 5P satellite, for example, is capable of measuring air quality data once every 24 hours for a given location, providing more recent data which is likely more accurate and useful for residents and organizations.

What services can use data from remote atmospheric monitoring systems?

The data gathered by TROPOMI and analyzed by CAMS is used to allow weather applications and services (such as the Weather Channel app) to provide local air quality information, either through combination with existing surface measurements or using satellite data alone. Remote atmospheric monitoring allows these applications to display up-to-date information on a variety of different air quality indicators that affect air quality indices, such as sulfur dioxide, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide.

Helpful resources

  • Charts showing current air quality overlayed onto a visualization of the Earth. The data in these charts is obtained from the Sentinel-5P satellite and TROPOMI device.
  • A page of TROPOMI’s website that gives an overview of the different indicators measured by the device, as well as links to data from the satellite and a more in-depth description of the measurement of each indicator.
  • A BBC article describing the use of the Sentinel – 5P satellite to gather air quality data including an estimation of production of sulfur dioxide in Norilsk, Russia. The article provides examples of visualizations using TROPOMI data.
  • A map of EPA air quality monitors with data about functionality and measurements, as well as the different types of indicators that each sensor measures.
  • A World Meteorological Organization webpage that describes the methods in which the TROPOMI device measures different indicators of air quality, as well as the limitations of these measurements.
  • A PDF file of the TROPOMI brochure with information about its measurement methods, construction, and functions.



Header Image: PhysicsWorld, Photo credit: ESA/ATG medialab. 

Meet Brodie Zalanka, Spring Gasp Intern

Meet Brodie Zalanka, Spring Gasp Intern

Meet Brodie Zalanka, Spring Gasp Intern

​What is your major at UAB/BSC and why did you choose it? I have a Bachelor of Science in Public Health and am pursuing my Masters in Public Health with a concentration in environmental and occupational health.

What do you hope to do after you graduate? I am considering continuing my education and pursuing my Doctorate degree in philosophy of environmental health sciences. 

What is your dream job? I want to eventually work in a leadership position at the EPA.

What do you hope to learn while interning with Gasp? I want to learn more about air quality and the methods of reporting pollution.

Why is our mission to reduce air pollution important to you? As a former Army medic, I have been trained to support and advocate for the preventative side of health issues. I see a direct correlation of environmental influences impacting health. I wish to be a part of the system that aims to decrease pollutants that negatively impact everyone’s life.

What is your favorite food? Cheeseburgers!!!

What are your hobbies? I love camping and fishing.

Who or what are your influences? My family is a tremendous influence for me. I am also influenced by more former Battalion Command team and platoon Sergeant. 

What are some other fun facts about yourself?

  • I love to BBQ.
  • Have an awesome girlfriend.
  • Have a dog and cat.
  • I am a retiree.