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Guest Scientist Blog: Logistical challenges of summer fieldwork during summer 2021's research internship: Guest scientist blog by Amalia N.

Amalia was part of the team submitting the project “Analyzing Demographic Trends and Their Influence on Mosquito Source Reduction.”

During the SEES internship, I got the opportunity to do data collection fieldwork. This required me to go around my neighborhood and take pictures of specific points that had been calculated using a Python notebook. Some of these points were in parts of my neighborhood that I’d never been to, despite being in my fourteenth year of living there. I even saw a pack of wild javelinas in a particularly remote spot! The task definitely took longer than I expected, but it felt good to know that I had contributed data that would actually help NASA scientists. 

I also got to brainstorm my project using either land cover or mosquito habitat mapper data with no limitations on the scale of the project. When I first heard that my idea could be as big as I wanted, I thought this would be an easy task to accomplish, but I ended up spending a couple of hours contemplating what I wanted to do. What helped me formulate an idea was going back over the studies we had written discussions about in weeks prior. I reviewed them, saw what other scientists had researched and concluded, and used that information to inspire my project. 

Another aspect of the internship was creating mosquito larvae traps, something that I found very intimidating as a person who despises bugs. However, I was able to get past my fear and create traps based on our instructions. The variable that I tested was the depth of the water, setting up four five-gallon buckets filled with varying amounts of water. Unfortunately, I had to leave my traps for ten days, and while I was gone, my hometown had experienced a heatwave. This meant that when I came back, the water in the bucket with the shallowest depth had almost entirely evaporated! Fortunately, the other buckets still had enough water for larvae to thrive, even if there was significantly less water in them than had initially been. The rest of my experiments throughout the summer were less eventful, and I collected substantial data from my various traps. It was amazing to be able to use the scientific process in a real-world scenario and to get to observe the larvae up close. 

My research team and I analyzed the effects of demographic trends and their influence on mosquito source reduction, the practice of getting rid of potential mosquito breeding habitats as our project. We sent out a survey to get data from a larger group of people, and it was interesting to look over the results and find trends. To make the trends clear, we put together graphs for our presentation at the end of the internship.

Although I had commitments during the summer other than the internship, I balanced everything pretty well. SEES takes a lot of time and effort, but it was absolutely worth it. I found that it was important to carve out time to specifically focus on the internship so that I was able to get the most I could out of the studies, speakers, and discussions. 

The best part about the internship was definitely working with people who were all equally enthusiastic about STEM. Our team spent hours on Zoom meetings planning and working on our final project and continued to stay in contact, even after the internship ended. Although everything was virtual, we wanted to make sure that we still got to know each other and have fun, so we planned Zoom game nights! We learned to overcome many obstacles together, such as team members living in multiple time zones, having to work on a time crunch, and experiencing many technological difficulties. Overall, I had a wonderful experience with SEES and have come away from it with new ideas, new contacts, and a passion for making discoveries.

 

Here are a few pictures from the field!

   
 

 


About the author:

Amalia N. i is a  high school student at the Arizona School for the Arts, which is located in  A​​​​​​​ri​​​​​​​zona.
Her 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/). She shares her experience this summer in this guest blog post.

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