Guest Scientist Blog: The Frustrations of Fieldwork and the Rewards of Collaborative Science

SEES Mosquito Mapper intern Thien-Nha T. in the field, documenting potential larvae habitat sites. Photo credit: Author.

Before this project, I never ever imagined I would be interested in studying any type of bugs, much less mosquitoes -- my itch-causing nemesis. However, the more I realized how interconnected these bugs are with the rest of the world and even my own life, the more I saw their importance.

My field experiment was designed to figure out what vegetation and color surrounding would attract the most mosquitoes. The structure and goal of the experiment were inspired by two published studies. The studies collected data on mosquito populations and other factors for several years and ran analyses.

However, as you can see in the accompanying photo, I am not using a clip on microscope-- because so far I have found no mosquito larvae. When I reached out to the team of experienced scientists and SEES interns, I found that other interns in the Bay Area were facing similar problems due to city mosquito treatment plans.  Despite biking to creeks and sliding down dusty ditches to collect data, I found zero mosquito larvae.

At first, I felt like a useless member of the research team, but the other SEES scientists really helped  me to gain perspective. When I reached out to people in similar situations (mostly in the Bay Area), they responded enthusiastically and knowledgeably. Together we delved into the literature on a deeper level and I definitely learned more by struggling to even find mosquitoes. But unlike my gains in skills and understanding, my mosquito larvae count is still zero! But zero is still data!

Climate change is very important to me and by extension, so is helping scientists negate a consequence of global warming. Even though the impact of a single individual is limited, the work that the team does helps to build a NASA database on mosquitoes. It is very empowering that my research is having an actual impact on a major problem facing society. This adds to the information on how global warming is affecting our planet and allows scientists to draw better conclusions in order to prevent the millions of deaths caused by invasive mosquitoes.

The fact that global warming has such severe consequences that I, a normal citizen, can see the mosquito results in my own backyard scares me. But on the flip side, even ordinary people can help more experienced scientists which is a fact I love and hope more people take advantage of. I also love that, at the same time of helping scientists, I am also developing my scientific skills. This has made the whole experience so far very interesting and rewarding. I am doing something with a very real impact while learning things that test my skills and understanding of the world.


Thien-Nha T.  is a high school student from California 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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Zero is definitely still data! Your efforts are important to the overall understanding.