Over a hundred and fifty years after late Henry David Thoreau, developments in sensors and wireless technologies, microelectronics, data science and the emergence of the Cloud are making it increasingly feasible to collect vast amounts of environmental data at high spatial and time resolutions over large geographical regions. Monitoring the land and large water bodies in this unprecedented manner using sensor networks has the potential to deeply impact environmental science, soil and plant science, and agriculture. This in turn, impacts food security, human health, and ecology. It is in this mindset that the Guha group at the University of Chicago explores sensor networks, for water—to measure water pollution and its impact on human health in Indian rivers; and for land, using a fully buried wireless subterranean sensor network on campus at the University of Chicago.
On the technology side, our focus is on building end-to-end system where distributed sensing data is wireless transmitted to and curated on the Cloud. Our testbeds serve as neutral benchmarking site to test various components, and to establish scalability and affordability. On the science side, working with researchers at the Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne, we explore new nanoscale materials, functionalization techniques and devices that can sense critical parameters such as dissolved nitrates in soil, volume averaged soil moisture, and e. coli content in water. All of our data is open data, and freely downloadable.