Trees Please Hamilton

Green Solutions to Air Pollution

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Air Quality Update – McQuesten II

A second complete walk-through of McQuesten has finally been completed. This took so long in part because of bad luck with weather (last week was entirely rained out) and because of the size and complexity of McQuesten makes it a four-session process compared to the two-session McAnulty neighbourhood.

Thursday June 29th Notes: McQuesten July 20 - 1.png

  • higher on and around busy streets (Queenston and Parkdale)
  • peaks near Cannon bus station on Reid Ave.
  • Rain caused slightly higher readings towards the end of the walk

Wednesday July 5th Notes: McQuesten July 20 - 2.png

  • Despite the construction on Brittania not being active, still elevated readings were still caused by floating dust and kick-up from vehicles
  • Elevated levels on Barton St. across from industrial sites
  • Moderate levels near Hillcrest Park – reasons unclear, could be upwind from the RHVP

Thursday July 6th Notes: McQuesten July 20 - 3.png

  • Small peaks near Brittania – construction related
  • high-levels in the north-east side – could be from higher density of traffic on Melvin, Barton, and the RHVP

Wednesday July 19th Notes: McQuesten July 20 - 4.png

  • High readings on Oriole and Glengrove – could be from recently finished construction nearby
  • Areas near Barton had slightly higher readings than those farther away

Overall Heat Map (neighbourhood boundary in black): composed of data I collected as well as previous INHALE volunteer data

HeatMap McQuesten July 20th.png

Patterns Noticed So Far:

  • In general, much of the McQuesten neighbourhood has better air quality than McAnulty.
  • Construction, vehicle traffic, smoking, and wood burning are the key contributors to high levels of PM2.5 in this neighbourhood.

We will continue air monitoring and with the tree inventory to gather more data.

If you’re interested in volunteering with tree inventory or air monitoring for the Trees Please project at McQuesten, or at our other site (McAnulty & Crown Point) check the calendars here:



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Air Quality Update – McAnulty (III-V)

After three additional walkthroughs of the neighbourhood, common patterns are becoming fairly evident.

Tuesday July 4th

McAnulty July 19 - 1.png

Wednesday July 5th

McAnulty July 19 - 2.png

Tuesday July 11th

McAnulty July 19 - 3.png

Wednesday July 12th

McAnulty July 19 - 4.png

Tuesday July 18th

McAnulty July 19 - 5.png

Wednesday July 19th

McAnulty July 19 - 6.png

Averaged Map: (Combination of all data from myself, other volunteers, and previous INHALE data)

HeatMap McAnulty July 19th.png

Common problem areas:

  •  Nikola Tesla Blvd. – Heavy industrial vehicles lay down debris and tear apart the asphalt of the roads. Traffic emissions from the elevated roadway can get trapped down below. The whole street can act as a wind-tunnel, with clouds of dust whipped into the air. Drag-out from the north and from Ottawa St. is also a problem.NTB.png
  • Ottawa St. – Extensive drag-out from industries to the west and Dofasco can be seen layering the road in a coat of beige dust. This is then picked up and moved around by passing vehicle traffic, including cars, 18-wheelers, and trains. The areas around the doors of Dofasco also yield higher readings. Ottawa St.jpg
  • Beach Rd. – Areas around and downwind from the doors of Dofasco and the truck/train entrances/exits can be significantly worse than just a block or two away on McAnulty Boulevard. Drag-out is once again a problem with the movement of heavy vehicles along the road. This is one of the most troubling areas since residential homes are in many cases mere metres away from the street.BR.png

Where do we go from here?

  • We believe that all of these problem areas can be mitigated somewhat by more frequent street sweeping by the city, but even better would be prevention of drag-out by the industrial sources themselves.
  • Trees and shrubbery can be planted to provide a barrier between the industry and the surrounding neighbourhoods and roads, as well as improving aesthetics.
  • Fencing/netting can be introduced to prevent wind-induced dust-outs.

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TREE TUESDAY: Extra Helping Hands in McQuesten


It isn’t every day that our Trees Please team is bombarded by an extra six sets of helping hands! A few weeks ago we were joined by a group of children in whose housing courtyard we were inventorying. They ran over to see what we were doing and immediately exclaimed that they wanted to help.

Delighted, we showed them how to use the small measuring tape to find the tree’s diameter. It kept getting flipped upside down, but eventually the kids got the hang of it. Next we helped them work together to roll out the big measuring tape to find the tree’s height. After some jockeying for roles, they successfully worked together on this task, too. Even a smiley little boy who was barely strong enough to roll the tape back in was able to participate. Using the clinometer to measure tree height was a challenge, since it requires patience and holding still – skills that kids have yet to master. That job remained with the original volunteers.

By the end of our time there, the children had decided that it was more fun to measure their own heights and the heights of their stuffed animals than the height of trees. This was okay with us since they had done such a good job before. We were so happy to see them enthusiastically interacting with nature and science, as well as working together to achieve something. Way to go, McQuesten kids!

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TREE TUESDAY: Blue Spruce Mystery

Last week’s blog post sang the praises of citizen science, and today we have a story to back it up. 

We were walking down by Beach Road in Crown Point and came across a startlingly blue, Blue Spruce. One of our Trees Please staff commented that she had never seen a Blue Spruce this vibrant before. Here’s a picture:


Close up of the Blue Spruce’s needles

So, with our curiosity piqued, we started asking questions. Why is this tree more blue than others? Could it be due to air pollution from the neighbouring industrial area? This is where question based learning kicked in. 

After some research, we learned that the blue colour comes from epicuticular waxes on needles that reflect specific light wavelengths. The more wax there is, the more blue the needles appear to be. So why might the wax on this tree’s needles be thicker than other spruces we’ve encountered?

The wax thickness is genetically determined, but can also be influenced by habitat. Several studies have shown that spruces with the bluest needles have been found at high elevations and with winter exposure. Does this mean that there is a correlation between hardiness and blue colour? Does air pollution impact the wax thickness?

Turns out that air pollutants such as Nitrogen Oxides, Sulfur Dioxide, particulate carbon, and other hydrocarbons, actually degrade the wax thickness. Our original hypothesis that pollution from nearby industry had made the tree more blue was likely false, since thinner wax produces less of a blue colour. 

Although we were incorrect, the process of question based learning was a satisfying learning experience. Participating in this citizen science project got our brains jogging about something that might have passed by unquestioned otherwise!





Air Quality Update – McAnulty II

A second complete walkthrough of the McAnulty neighbourhood has been completed, and some patterns are beginning to take shape.

The neighbourhood is bordered by Nikola Tesla Blvd. to the north, Barton St. to the south, Ottawa St. N. to the west, and Kenilworth Ave. N. to the east.

Tuesday June 27th Notes:

McAnulty July 4 -1.png

  • Poor readings on Dofasco Rd. once again, this time due to a train passing by, kicking dust into the air
  • Residential peaks were generally caused by smokers
  • Alleyway spike – unclear, could be from wind from Dofasco Rd. to the north, or by trucks running by on nearby Kenilworth Ave.

Wednesday June 28th Notes:

McAnulty July 4 -2.png

  • Once again, a spike near the Dofasco truck entrance/exit despite no traffic
  • Very high in spots underneath Nikola Tesla Blvd. – could be exhaust from vehicles above and truck dust getting trapped underneath the bridge. As well, wind gusts sent visible dust clouds into the air.
  • Ottawa St. near train tracks – ultra-high spike caused by train passing through and a traffic stack-up of heavy, diesel trucks as a result

Overall heat map of the area (based on my readings so far and other INHALE volunteer data:

HeatMap McAnulty July 4th.png

Some patterns noticed so far:

  • Dofasco Rd., especially near the Dofasco entrance/exit, produces very high readings.
  • Not surprisingly, Ottawa St. and Nikola Tesla Blvd. produce very high readings due to close-by industry and transport trucks.
  • Residential neighbourhoods generally don’t have awful air quality, but the closer one gets to Beach Rd. and the industry and truck traffic, the worse it tends to get.

The Crown Point area will continue to be re-monitored to get increasingly accurate spacial data.

If you’re interested in volunteering with tree inventory or air monitoring for the Trees Please project at McAnulty, or at our other site (McQuesten) check the calendars here:

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TREE TUESDAY: Science Isn’t Just for Scientists

Science is far more accessible than we think.

The most essential equipment a keen citizen scientist can have is curiosity about our natural world and motivation to pursue their questions. Most citizen science projects require minimal to no training or specialized equipment. Thanks to applications such as the Open Tree Map used by Trees Please, data from many projects can be accessed directly on smart phones or other personal electronic devices. 


Looking at Tree Inventory Data on Open Tree Map

Here are a few reasons why citizen science is definitely something you want to get involved in:

1. When many people are involved in making observations and gathering data for a scientific project it is possible to create large databases and conduct studies on a large scale. For example, the longest running wildlife census has been made possible by thousands of enthusiastic volunteers who participate in the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas bird count. 

2. Participants in citizen science projects are in a great position to learn about environmental and social issues. When you participate in a Trees Please inventory, you learn first-hand about the need for trees in Hamilton’s industrial areas. Volunteers are leading their own education in a way that can also build teamwork and communication skills. 

3. Citizen science encourages question based learning, which is fun and rewarding. “What kind of tree is this?” “Why might its leaves be damaged like that?” “Is this tree planted in an environment suited to its needs?” and so on. Projects also allow you to actively engage with scientific research and discovery as opposed to passively hearing about the findings on the news. You can be proud that your participation made scientific research possible! 


Below are links to interesting articles and lists of projects you can take part in (apart from our own Trees Please and Air Monitoring projects, of course):


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Air Quality Update – McQuesten

McQuesten’s first complete walkthrough has been completed!

The neighbourhood is bordered by the train tracks to the north, Queenston Rd. to the south, Parkdale Ave. to the west, and the Red Hill Valley Parkway to the east.

Thursday June 8th Notes:

McQuesten July 4 - 1.png

  • Oriole Ct. – construction at the north causes medium-high readings
  • Higher than normal levels on Beland/Delana – not sure, could be traffic or proximity to Queenston
  • Spike on Glassco near Brittania – truck from construction site kicked large amounts of dust into the air

Wednesday June 14th Notes:

McQuesten July 4 - 2.png

  • Higher levels on Parkdale @ Brittania – construction dust
  • Higher levels further south on Parkdale and on Dunsmure – could be proximity to extensive traffic
  • Melvin – Harley-Davidson motorcycle revving

Wednesday June 21st Notes:

McQuesten July 4 - 3.png

  • Overall air quality was extremely good – less than 100 particles per hundredth of a cubic foot (around 1 μm/cubic metre) for most of the walk
  • Peaks near Queenston and RHVP (Red Hill Valley Parkway) – traffic induced – a tow truck and several transport trucks
  • Residential peaks – likely smokers
  • Peaks at the meeting place – self-induced (accidentally blocked air vents)

Thursday June 22nd Notes:

McQuesten July 4 - 4.png

  • Peaks along Barton – trucks merging onto the street from industry to the north
  • Parkdale @ Melvin – construction site with wind blowing
  • Glassco – smoker
  • Huge peak on Adair – wood burning
  • Brittania @ Blair – construction dust and rain starting to fall (rain affects the air quality instrument)

Wednesday June 28th Notes:

McQuesten July 4 - 5.png

  • Higher readings near Brittania because of construction
  • Spikes near Barton St – especially and Woodward and approaching RHVP
  • Osborne St. extended high zone – unclear, could be caused from wind coming from the RHVP

It is important to keep in mind that these are just a single set of readings for the area – construction, wood burning, smoking, etc. can temporarily increase PM2.5 levels. The entire area will be re-measured several times this summer to develop a more accurate idea of the spatial patterns of PM2.5 pollution in the area.

If you’re interested in volunteering with tree inventory or air monitoring for the Trees Please project at McQuesten, or at our other site (McAnulty & Crown Point) check the calendars here: