The Greater Boston Area is known for its cold winters, snowy city streets, and Nor’easters. We know to budget for salt on our roads, keep warm indoors, and do the “penguin shuffle” to get to the car. Summers, however, are becoming increasingly important to plan for since they are getting longer, hotter, and more humid. Surprisingly, extreme heat, sometimes known as the “silent storm of extreme weather” causes more deaths in the US than all other weather hazards combined. As daily temperatures continue to increase in Massachusetts, the Museum of Science, Boston, in partnership with the Resilient Mystic River Collaborative (RMC), Mystic River Watershed Association, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, are focused on building a community of resilience to prepare for a hotter Greater Boston Area within the Mystic River Watershed.

About the Project

The goals of this project were to collect high resolution temperature and air quality data via volunteer scientists, create heat and air quality maps to identify the neighborhoods with highest extreme heat burden, increase community engagement around the rising concerns of extreme heat, and communicate the data to civic partners, community groups, and the general public. 

On August 12 and 13, 2021, over 80 volunteers joined MOS and MyRWA in measuring ground-level air temperature, humidity, and air particulate matter using special sensors mounted on cars and bikes.  They traveled along 19 predetermined transects at 6 a.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m., and 6 a.m. the next morning. 

Volunteers mounted two types of sensors on their car windows or bicycles: 1) a CAPA temperature sensor, which records the ambient air temperature once per second, and 2) an AirBeam air quality sensor, which measures particulate matter (PM2.5). This method of sampling was developed with partners from CAPA Strategies, HabitatMap, Portland State University, and the Science Museum of Virginia. 

Results and Data


Throughout the summer of 2021, we used citizen science platform called ISeeChange, where participants documented and learned more about the changing environment around them. We had an extreme heat page for the Mystic River watershed, where anyone within the area could post their observations, while also being able to interact with other citizen scientists. Posts included highlighting areas that were hotter in the city, areas that had trees or water features to cool down, or how community members were dealing with the heat.

ISeeChange is a global community that posts about what participants notice changing in the environment using the platform and mobile tools. Each post is synced with weather and climate data and broadcast to the community to investigate bigger picture climate trends. Over time, community members can track how climate is changing, season to season, year to year, and understand the impacts on daily life.

Sign up for ISeeChange today at

Event Recordings

Wicked Hot Mystic Results Webinar

  • WATCH: Full YouTube video
  • WHAT: Tune in to learn about the Wicked Hot Mystic heat mapping campaign, see heat maps of the watershed that were generated from data collected by volunteer scientists, and find out how we plan to use the data to advocate for change.

Museum of Science Instagram Live

  • WATCH: @museumofscience on Instagram Reels
  • WHAT: Join Sara Benson, Museum of Science, and Melanie Gárate, Mystic River Watershed Association, to learn why heat is a public health issue, know about the Wicked Hot Mystic project and volunteer to be part of the volunteer science project!

BARI Conference 2021: Building Back Smarter

  • WATCH: Full YouTube video
  • WHAT: The Many Dimensions of Environmental Justice panel discussion with Conor Gately, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Nathan E Sanders, ComSciCon & Astrobites and Sara Benson, Museum of Science. Moderator: Roseann Bongiovanni, Executive Director, GreenRoots Chelsea

From Snow Days to Heat Waves: A Discussion on Health, Heat, and Climate Change

  • WATCH: Full YouTube video
  • READ: MAPC, MOS, and MyRWA joint press release
  • WHAT: Speakers will highlight projects across the Greater Boston area addressing the issues of rising and extreme temperatures, public health, equity, and climate change. This is event is co-hosted by Museum of Science, Boston; Mystic River Watershed Association; and Metropolitan Area Planning Council, with generous support from the Massachusetts Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program. The Metropolitan Mayors Coalition Climate Taskforce and Resilient Mystic Collaborative are co-sponsors.

Wicked Hot Mystic: ISeeChange Webinar

  • WATCH: Full YouTube video
  • WHAT: You’re invited to join us on this webinar to learn more about the Wicked Hot Mystic program and how you can collect critical summer heat data through a free app called ISeeChange.

Wicked Hot Mystic Information Session

  • WATCH: Full YouTube video
  • WHAT: Interested in volunteering to help the Mystic River Watershed? Learn about our Summer 2021 in-person data collection. We'll be using heat and air quality sensors to look for the hottest (and coolest) spots in the Mystic River Watershed!

Wicked Hot Mystic: Temperature Data Collection Training

  • WATCH: Full YouTube Video
  • WHAT: To volunteer for the Wicked Hot Mystic, participate in this webinar to learn how to get temperature data, use sensors, and get more details on the project.

Supported by the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program

In partnership with Mystic River Watershed Association, Resilient Mystic Collaborative, and the Town of Arlington, Researchers from the Helmuth Lab at Northeastern University, and Lowell Institute.