Hello, I’m Prayag Sreenivasan, and I’m a student in the NASA SEES 2021 MosquitoMappers internship. A big part of the internship is doing hands-on research projects ourselves. With the Mosquito Mappers team, we were to utilize land cover data and mosquito mapper data with GLOBE to study mosquito populations with our projects.
The first project we were assigned was to cultivate mosquitoes in about five different traps andobserve how a difference in the trap environment would affect the growth and development of the mosquito population for each trap. I have a large backyard, with a very large portion of it sloping down into the ground. This section is also heavily wooded, with a lot of shade, shrubs and undergrowth, rocks, and trees. It borders on a canyon with a forest in it. This turned out to be the ideal place to cultivate mosquitos. At least five different areas did not have a line of sight to each other, meaning that placing the mosquito traps there would make them isolated.
My traps were pretty standard, being a plastic 5-gallon bucket filled to 2 gallons with water (we’ll get to that in a bit) and with a wooden stake or paint-stirrer sticking up out of it. Each bucket had an equal amount of fish food poured into the water to attract mosquitos. The variable in this experiment was the water type. For the control, I put distilled water into one bucket and put tap water in one, and chlorinated water from my swimming pool into another.
I went to a creek near my house with turgid, muddy water and used that for one trap. I collected some rainwater for the last trap, though it wasn’t enough, so I measured the pH and produced some water with the same acidity as “rainwater.” I then set the buckets out in their places and began the experiment.
At first, no larvae seemed to appear at all, although when I was conducting my first observation, I could see adult mosquitos buzzing around the traps, likely to lay eggs there. It turns out that I was incorrectly using the microscope, although later on, I began to find some larvae. However, by this stage, some pupae were forming too.
Some traps, such as the pool water trap, lagged behind the others in terms of the growth of their mosquitos but had more larvae. I hypothesize that this is because it was more difficult for a larva to grow in some traps, while in others, they grew up so fast that I could no longer recognize them as larvae. The data supports this, and containers that later on had many more adult mosquitos coming from them initially had fewer observable larvae.
By the time I finally found a steady number of pupae in some traps, others had become ghost towns, as adult mosquitos began leaving in droves. The environments that were harder to live in also left behind many dead larvae, although if a mosquito made it to pupa, it would likely survive to adulthood and leave. After analyzing some of the dead larvae, and those that lagged behind the others in their traps, I concluded that these mosquitos were predominantly culex genus.
Before participating in this project, I was not exposed to how hands-on experiments and projects like this one, especially those involved with earth science and biology, were handled. I also gain an appreciation for the reality of a project’s results: you will seldom get yes/no answers to your question, and your hypothesis could be entirely off; however, the results of your project are still considered “data” and can show meaning or be valuable. Lastly, I didn’t realize how good of an environment anywhere can be when studying biology, because there are living things everywhere on the Earth.
Prayag is a high school student from Austin, TX who is working on a research project this summer using the GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper. His virtual internship is part of a collaboration between the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and the NASA Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) to extend the TSGC Summer Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) internship for US high school (http://www.tsgc.utexas.edu/sees-internship/). He shares his experience this summer in this guest blog post.