EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The art-science interface: making York's air pollution visible

Daniel Bryant1, Clare Nattress2, and Jacqui Hamilton1
Daniel Bryant et al.
  • 1Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories, Department of Chemistry, University of York, York, UK
  • 2Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK

Airborne particulate species less than 2.5 micrometers in diameters known as PM2.5 are considered to be the most deadly form of air pollution, contributing to millions of premature deaths per year globally. However, due to the small size of these damaging airborne particulate species drawing public attention to the issue is challenging. This study aims to increase the public awareness of PM2.5 through an art-science collaboration. Conceptual artist Nattress uses her bicycle as a performative tool to pedal on low and high infrastructure routes around the city of York, UK. The roads around the circumference of the University of York and York St John University are known highly polluted areas that are often heavily congested. The bicycle was equipped with a MiniVol TAS sampler and a Plume Labs Flow 2 sensor gathering data over the course of three months. The filters collected were extracted and analysed by atmospheric scientist Bryant through an established method used for PM2.5 filter samples, using ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography, high-resolution mass spectrometry to identify known compounds within the samples. The process of collection and extraction were documented and the filters also photographed and investigated under a microscope.

This arts-science collaboration seeks to uncover if there are any striking differences in air pollution levels on regular bus routes to both campuses as well as alternative rural routes. This study proposes that the data and information gathered will be incorporated onto a digital map of York to reveal collection locations and routes as well as pollution concentrations and compounds present within filter samples. Combining this data with photos and video snapshots of each performance ride will improve the public's ability to see for themselves pollution within their city. This interdisciplinary collaboration would also increase our understanding of environmental hazards facing cyclists and the benefits of a healthier environment through improved infrastructure. This study will help monitor and creatively disseminate exactly what cyclists and the public are exposed to and will help to inform effective solutions.

Despite ongoing evidence that suggests art enhances our understanding of science and data, there is still much to analyse regarding impact and personal realisation for action. This study provides initial evidence that the public engages with creative and visual outcomes that aim to make the invisible, visible. 

How to cite: Bryant, D., Nattress, C., and Hamilton, J.: The art-science interface: making York's air pollution visible, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-5038,, 2022.