Researchers will use birds to collect air-quality data for blog

Pigs can’t fly, but soon pigeons will blog — about air pollution. UC-Irvine professor Beatriz da Costa and two graduate students are developing tiny Global Positioning System units, cell phones, and pollution sensors that can fit into little bird backpacks (cute!). Da Costa plans to release 20 gear-toting pigeons into San Jose’s smoggy air several times in August. As the birds wing toward their home roost, the devices will measure nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide levels, peg the readings to each bird’s position, and text-message the data every 30 seconds to a blog, where folks will be able to see it in real time. “I wanted a new way of looking at air pollution that wasn’t colored by political perspective and old arguments,” says da Costa. Coo.