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SEES 2021 Intern on his research experience

Vishruth K

I was excited when I heard that I got a second opportunity to participate in the NASA SEES internship. I was fortunate to be selected last year too. But when I found out that I was placed on the Mosquito Mapper team, initially I was a bit disappointed that I did not get my preferred choice. But I went in with an open mind.

In both years, the internship falls during my school year because in India summer break ends in May. But what made it more challenging this year compared to last year is that I had exams, I was selected to represent India in the prestigious International Linguistics Olympiad and was being trained for it. The timing for these was between school and attending Internship meetings and sessions during the night. So, I didn't get enough rest. But the mentors were very understanding of my schedule and gave me the flexibility to complete my tasks

The internship started with setting up mosquito traps and collecting larvae data using the GLOBE Observer tool. I was very optimistic about seeing a good number of larvae as mosquitoes are prevalent in India especially outdoors because India is a tropical country. But to my surprise, I couldn't find any larvae for weeks. I suspected it could be because of mosquito eggs being eaten by predators like dragonflies which are also quite common in my community. It could have also been due to the fumigation done every evening. But this seemed unlikely because the trap was set up in my terrace on the 16th floor and fumigation was done on the ground floor. I also suspected if the cool weather due to incessant rains was responsible for the lack of results. Observations in my team project confirmed that larvae are likely to develop slower in cooler weather. When the weather turned sunny, I soon observed many mosquito eggs that developed into larvae within a week. It was also likely that my bait needed to ferment for a longer period of time in order to be more appealing to the mosquitoes, so the further fermentation of my grass could have also been a factor that led to the trap’s success.

While researching further, I was also intrigued about what the local government bodies are doing to collect data. I found that the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation collects data using traps bought from a company called Moskeet traps that not only trap and kill mosquitoes within a 100m radius but collect valuable data on the kind of species found which can help determine the spread of endemic diseases like dengue/chikungunya.

Finally, when it was time for my team and I to brainstorm on our project, we came up with an idea that applies these observations to the data we collected using the GLOBE Observer app. We arrived at an interesting hypothesis - How do different environmental aspects affect the mosquito population? My repeated failures in collecting mosquito larvae were useful, as they helped us draw conclusions on how some environmental factors can inhibit the mosquito population. Our secondary goal to find an eco-friendly way to inhibit the growth of the mosquito population was much closer to being reached with information on the factors that caused my trap to not attract mosquitoes.

By the time the internship had ended, I realized what an enriching experience it was. It was a real-life example of how failure is the stepping stone to success, and a means to further educate me on mosquito behavior so that I can help limit their abundant presence. It also helped me understand how data can help in understanding and finding solutions to problems that plague our world.

 

   
Vishruth is a  high school student at the CHIREC International School in Telangana, India 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.

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This is awesome, We are putting logistics together to carry out similar activities such as teaching students and their teachers in both public and private schools across Abuja, Lagos and Nairobi on how to sign up on Globe.gov, building mosquito traps as well as uploading data as part of our new ''Science for Education and Economic Development in Africa (SEEDA) project'' at ScienceSquad Africa

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