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Guest Scientist Blog: Dark, Warm, and Safe-- Productive Mosquito Larvae Habitats Found on Urban Construction Sites


     

Left: SEES Mosquito Mapper intern Maia W. in the field, sampling a mosquito larvae habitat on a construction site in her hometown. Right: GLOBE Observer Land Cover observations collected alongside mosquito habitat identifications provide important data for analysis. Photo credit: Author.

As part of our field research, SEES interns identify local potential mosquito breeding habitats. As I live in an area that is cold and rainy most of the year, I did not anticipate finding any larvae, and when I did find some, it was not in the area I expected. Rather than finding larvae in a puddle deep in a forest, I found it right around the corner from my home at a construction site. 

At construction sites, black plastic tarps are used to cover equipment and materials. When not in use, tarps are often left in a crumpled heap near the site. As construction can last for several months, I found a tarp left in the same spot, collecting standing water, for quite some time. Being dark, warm, and safe, the tarp creates the perfect habitat for mosquito breeding.

The number of larvae I have found at these sites is staggering. Often just one small puddle can hold hundreds of mosquitoes. In addition, I have only once failed to find larvae at these sites. I noticed during my surveys that many of the sites are on or are near wetland, which may in part account for the abundance of mosquitoes in the area.

Being very interested in the effects of urban development on natural environments, I was greatly interested to see the effects in my own neighborhood. Urban development has been increasing incredibly rapidly across the world and my hometown is no exception. As forests and wetland have become housing developments, organisms have been forced to either adapt or go away. Mosquitoes are resilient creatures and my findings reflect that. It is important that we as humans consider the effects development has on the environment and native species.

While I have always been interested in environmental sciences, I never considered entomology as a branch of science that I would explore. Being allowed to conduct my own field research has led me to knowledge that is both exciting and unexpected. Next year, I will be conducting a yearlong research project focusing on the impact of urban development on water quality. I am still unsure how exactly the project will proceed, but this internship has guided my career path and inspired future research questions.

Maia W. is a high school student from Washington State who is working on a research project this summer using the GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper. Her virtual internship is part of a collaboration between GLOBE Mission Mosquito and the NASA Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) to extend the TSGC Summer Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) internship for U.S. high school (http://www.tsgc.utexas.edu/sees-internship/). She shares her experience so far this summer in this guest blog post.

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