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FONDECYT research grant (2022-2025)

Integrated Assessment of Air Pollution in Contrasting Geographies of Chile


Since July 2022 I have been working on a 3 year research project, funded by ANID, the Chilean National Research and Development Agency. You can see a summary of the research plan below but before that here are 5 video chapters explaining the context of air pollution in Chile.


As part of the outreach part of this project, I have teamed up with the journalist, social researcher and artist, Claudia Torres to create five short videos that take us through a journey through Chile and its environmental problems. The topics flow from the origin of Chile´s environmental problems, to the specifics of how air pollution in Chile manifests itself, through to providing some solutions. At the end of each chapter two scientists involved in atmospheric chemistry measurements provide some personal reflections on their path to becoming an environmental scientists and the last chapter showcases their reflections on environmental science´s relationship with society in Chile.

Measurements will be carried out in the North of Chile around Calama and the Alto Loa area (where intensive mining is carried out), in Central Chile in the city of Santiago as well as the industrial zones near Valparaiso and finally, in the Aysén region of Chilean Patagonia, principally centred around the town of Coyhaique, which has a serious domestic wood-burning problem.


Passive sampling instruments will be installed to collect dust samples (in the arid north), rain samples (a rotating rain gauge) and dry deposition of particulate matter and black carbon. These samples will allow a characterization of the composition of the Particulate Matter, showing which metals are present and elucidating the origin of the particles.

Low cost sensors will be used in mobile experiments (mostly walking), where exposure of various people walking a fixed route will be used to create an exposure map of the location with a higher higher spatial resolution than static measurements can do. Sampling on  board a drone will allow a vertical characterisation of the air pollution and also the boundary layer characteristics and meteorology.


The data that is collected  on an online database and eventually an interactive website where the data can be combined with layers of social or geographical information and compared with meteorological data. We hope to be able to link this to the Chilean government´s new Observatorio de Cambio Climático. 

MAP chile.png
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Quintero and Santiago


Video playlist here:


This project will carry out field measurements of air quality and meteorology in three distinct macro-zones of Chile, the desert north, the central urban and industrial region and the rugged and cold Patagonian south. 


These measurements will be carried out with a suite of air quality instrumentation that are installed in a “mobile laboratory”, a van equipped for accessing fairly remote areas and setting up in chosen locations with a local power supply. Additional small meteorological stations installed on a tall tower and measurement with drones will allow local meteorological experiments to be undertaken close to the measurement station. 

The subject of each chapter is as follows (and they all have English subtitles):

1.      Chile: Torn between Natural Abundance and Uncontrolled Extractivism




3.      Air Pollution: A multi-faceted problem

2.      Economic Development and environmental problems

4.      Instruments for measuring air pollution

5.      Community, research and the role of Science


During our various field campaigns and tours through Chile we will carry out science outreach with local residents, invite local researchers to join us in taking measurements and encourage the communities to work on a legacy of long term monitoring projects with low cost or passive sensors that can be left behind. This project will highlight the different atmospheric and air quality phenomena that could lead to potential health effects on local residents and help them to understand how to mitigate these effects and to empower them to keep a closer eye on public policies that may help them.

Scientific Objectives

The main scientific questions this project aims to answer are:

  • How does air pollution vary in its composition and source across Chile?

  • How can mobile measurements or short term campaigns help to fill in the gaps of the monitoring networks?

  • How can we combine low cost sensors, passive collectors and continuous monitoring instruments to get an integrated picture of the air quality and resident´s exposure to pollution in any chosen location?

My research partners on this project

Carlos Manzano, Universidad de Chile (Human exposure to pollutants)

Luis Gomez, CIEP, Universidad Austral (boundary layer meteorology and Coyhaique local expert)

Nicolas Zanetta, Universitaet Heidelberg (Passive collection devices, Alto Loa community links)

Camilo Rodríguez-Beltrán, Universidad del Desarrollo (Databases, data intelligence and communication)

Roberto Sommariva, University of Birmingham, UK (Chemistry modelling)

Marios Panagi, ex-University of Leicester, UK (Dispersion modelling and source-receptor analysis)

Some results so far

Measurements in Coyhaique, July 2022 

The Excamp2022 field campaign was organised between CIEP, Universidad Austral, Universidad de aysen, Universidad del Desarrollo, CR2 and the Universidad de Chile. We are still working up the data but a summary can be found here and video below

Also, we published a paper about the long term timeseries of air pollution data in Coyhaique: Long-term airborne particle pollution assessment in the city of Coyhaique, Patagonia, Chile

Measurements in Alto Loa, October 2022 

With my colleague Nicolás Zanetta and Carlos Manzano we published the data from our January 2021 field work in Alto Loa. Please see the full article (Impact of mining on the metal content of dust in indigenous villages of northern Chile) here in Environment International. A short summary in Spanish can be found here and we are about to write a press release for international release.


We went back to explain the results to the communities and learn the most effective ways of communicating science to them. We carried out Particulate Matter sampling and also took many water samples, sediments and even attempted to record the metal content in trees (to complement the dendrochemistry analysis of Nicolas Zanetta).

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