From Alberta to Leeds: A Clean Air Interview with Exchange Student Nick Tabler

What’s your background? What brings you to the University of Leeds?

I’m Nick Tabler I’m a student from the University of Alberta in Western Canada I’m here on a QES Scholarship working with Leeds Living Labs doing software development, centre calibration and designing air quality monitoring solutions.

My background is in Electrical Engineering.  I haven’t had much climate science background coming into this so for the first month I’ve been learning a lot from my colleagues of Earth and Environment.  I’ve always had an interest in hiking, mountaineering, being outside and the quality of ecosystems.

I’ve been working within the Sustainability environment industry and I’ve wanted to get a more academic experience so I’ve moved into the research side of things. As far as air quality goes it’s a much larger concern in England and it’s something that’s difficult to manage and difficult to quantify.

What are you working on at the University of Leeds?

I’m designing a couple of air quality monitoring systems that will go around campus.  These are black box solutions that we will be putting nearby the motorways and around campus as well as a forest reserve south of Leeds. I’m working between that as well as air quality monitoring walks, managing volunteers. Collecting data and transferring it to our website as well as enhancing our website so people can see what air quality is like around campus.

We have a consistent walk engaging volunteers around campus, various staff groups, and student groups as well as trying to engage students who can find the data to see what the air quality is like over time. These Air quality walks are an initiative by the Leeds Living Lab Project to monitor air quality throughout 12 months starting from November/December and then moving up to November/December 2018.  It provides a data set that we can give to planning and operations to help engage their air quality strategy.

How would you compare the Leeds and Alberta?

Compared to Alberta I find Leeds is a lot more condensed. You get a lot of different air quality concerns that you wouldn’t get back in Alberta. I would say the density is much higher so you get a lot more traffic and a lot more slow traffic on motorways.  So that can result in a lot more diesel cars, I find that it’s a lot smoggy here. So it’s more noticeable. On some days it’s difficult to quantify on just a sensory basis. It’s something that has to be more experienced through sensors and monitors. It seems more people are concerned about Air Quality here than Alberta.

I think there’s something to be learned from Leeds to take back to Alberta. From what I’ve seen working with Sustainability on campus. There are a lot more initiatives here as far as biodiversity as well as data monitoring through the city. I think that’s something I’ll be taking back to Alberta.  Valuing biodiversity and monitoring on campus to the best of my knowledge I don’t see as many projects or outreaches are not quite there.  And that is well something that I find in Leeds. Think there’s a lot of different concerns that make it difficult for me to say one thing or another to compare both Alberta and Leeds, as far as land preservation, it’s a different specialality. It’s more condensed, less area here than there is in Canada so there are different solutions that have to be considered.

It’s National Clean Air Day on the 21st June. What’s your Clean Air Day pledge?

For National Clean Air Day 2018 I’m trying to rely on walking and cycling rather than using public transportation. Because public transport is substantially better than driving a single car but cycling would still be better!