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Meet Keenan Johnson: Founder of Ribbit Network

by Winter Wilson | Joules Accelerator


Keenan Johnson, founder of Ribbit Network, was working on emissions reduction and tracking when he realized something: trying to estimate exactly what a company’s emissions were was a wildly complicated task. So why not focus on using sensors to directly sense where the most emissions were coming from?


“In weather,” Keenan said, “we no longer guess what the temperature is in places because we know what it is. We just have really dense networks of satellites, aircraft and ground sensors that tell us that.”


When it came to emissions, Keenan realized he could create a similar large-scale sensing network. This was the idea that led him to launch Ribbit Network, a non-profit organization inviting “students, teachers, makers, corporations, and scientists to build and deploy open-source sensors that contribute to a global climate observation network,” according to their website.


The sensors are simple, easy to put together and, the best part? They look like frogs – these small sensors are “ribbiting out” their information in the public domain. Keenan’s team has also co-developed educational modules that help users contextualize their contributions to the broader open-source emissions sensing network.


“We’ve been able to make really high quality sensor kits,” Keenan said. “We have great instructions, we have great hardware and software designs that we can easily get to educators and science-based communities around the world.” The team has already deployed hundreds of sensors.


While Keenan is excited to figure out the engineering and science challenges that are related to building such a big network of sensors, he also sees the importance of engaging people in climate conversations.


“The second, more immediate and probably more fulfilling role is getting people involved in thinking about this really hard, intangible, scary problem,” Keenan said. “So what’s an easy, fun, non-scary first step that you can take towards considering some other more effective action for you personally? I think building a fun frog sensor is a great jumping off point.”


Keenan has also started to build connections with the deeper science community, most notably by building a science advisory composed of scientists from prestigious institutions such as NASA and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He hopes the board can help think through how to tackle the more difficult questions on the science side of the project, building a broader coalition of experts who can work to answer the most pressing questions together.


In the meantime, Keenan sees many avenues for people to get involved in the Ribbit Network.


“I think just for us, the call to action is always to get involved in the project,” he said. “We have lots of different ways you can do that, whether it’s building a sensor, hosting an educational experience, or you want to help build the organization and sensor as a volunteer – we have all of those options!”


You can learn more about Keenan and the Ribbit Project by visiting their website, or contacting them directly at hello@ribbitnetwork.org.

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