Guest Scientist Blog by Kayla M. Thomas, McNair Scholar, Southern Nazarene University
Oklahoma has experienced three major outbreaks of West Nile Virus (WNV) since its local introduction in 2002. State and local health agencies provide surveillance of mosquito-borne diseases although reduced resources and personnel limits its scope. With the addition of citizen scientists from the greater Oklahoma City, I was able to analyze ongoing mosquito observations by using NASA’s GLOBE Observer mobile app during the 2019 mosquito season.
Citizen scientist participation studies have shown several promising benefits to future healthcare action plans. First, the economic cost of this modern method has a significant advantage compared to traditional methods. Costs are mostly associated with community outreach and non-recurring investments in technology and equipment. Second, citizen scientists provide early warning signs. They can provide a sampling grid of finer granularity, augmenting the number of mosquito surveillance sites maintained by the Oklahoma City Country Public Health Department. Finally, The citizen science approach provides the opportunity to gather information about spatio-temporal variation in the probability of humans and mosquitoes coming into contact, a key issue for understanding disease transmission patterns and risks.
As I continue accumulating citizen scientists’ observations, I plan to validate the mobile app larvae identification & human-mosquito encounters, screen for other arboviruses, such as St. Louis encephalitis, Japanese encephalitis and Zika, and critique the reliability of citizen scientists within the Oklahoma City-Norman area.
This was truly a once in a lifetime experience. It helped me to develop a great work ethic and organizational skills in the lab. It also allowed me to narrow down the field I want to work in after graduation. I am a biochemistry major and my dream job would be working for the CDC in the health promotion and/or community education!