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We Keep Us Safe: Building a Web of Social Action

Dr. Chris Hawn talks about finding ways to combine their passion for ecology, health and community through a public science initiative designed to measure air pollutants.

Published onJan 15, 2022
We Keep Us Safe: Building a Web of Social Action


Chris L. Hawn, Ph.D. uses lessons learned from grassroots organizing to apply to the field of public science to create an accessible and justice-oriented science. Hawn discusses their start at NC State University getting their Ph.D. in conservation ecology and the reasons why they shifted towards environmental justice and toxicology. 

Chris Hawn, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of geography and environmental systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and a proud NC State alum. Their research platform uses public science to blend conservation ecology with social justice to benefit groups that are subjected to oppression. Dr. Hawn has developed a justice-oriented public science project called Spidey Senser, an air quality monitoring project using funnel spider webs to detect air pollution. They use spiders as bioindicators to test the quality of the environment, and uses Black feminist theory to understand the broader social implications of environmental inequality.

We Keep Us Safe: Building a Web of Social Action (Chris L. Hawn)

This video was originally produced for an audience of entering first-year and transfer students at NC State University as a part of an interdisciplinary experience. It is available for noncommercial reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 4.0 License,



Visit to participate in Spidey Senser and monitor the air quality in your neighborhood.

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