Virtual Internship, Real Research: Guest Scientist Blog by Emma H., 2020 NASA SEES Intern

Coming into the NASA SEES Mosquito Mapper program, I was beyond nervous. Living in Washington State in an area with few mosquitoes, I had no idea how I would be able to collect enough data for the final research project, especially since this was the first time I was conducting research on my own. In addition to that, the program was entirely virtual! As a visual learner, I was worried that participation might be challenging.

These worries quickly fell behind after the first virtual "Zoom" meeting. My mentors were super easy going and accessible, and happy to answer any of the questions I had. My fellow interns were incredibly friendly as well, and I got to create lasting friendships with many of them through our Discord discussion channel. As we transitioned into the research project, I was excited to learn that I could access all the data collected by our team members, instead of just data I had managed to collect on my own.  I decided to use Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio to sort and select land feature categories from GLOBE Observer Land Cover and GLOBE Observer Mosquito Mapper to see how different landscape features-- elevation, latitude, longitude, land cover type and water source type -- affected mosquito larvae numbers obtained by citizen scientists during fieldwork. My data suggest that mosquitoes preferred urban areas rather than areas dominated by trees and shrubs.  Confused, I conducted a literature review and read about the characteristics of mosquito breeding habitats as described by other scientists. I found that neighborhoods experiencing urban decay provided the perfect habitats, filled with various unbothered water sources. Although I identified some sampling bias issues with elevation, latitude, and longitude, I was able to conclude based on my data sample that many mosquitoes preferred areas with elevations less than 500 meters.

Of course, this virtual internship came with challenges. I would find myself frustrated with my empty mosquito traps and with the technological incompatibilities exhibited between the GLOBE Observer app and my Android mobile device. However, I genuinely enjoyed being able to find interesting patterns and trends in the data I examined, as well as the opportunity to hone my skills as a research scientist. I can't believe that this internship is coming to a close after weeks of reading and data analysis. I'm incredibly honored to have had this opportunity  and I can't wait to use my newfound skills to dive deeper into STEM research!

Emma H. is a high school student from Washington who is working on a research project this summer using the GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper and Land Cover tools. 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 U.S. high school (http://www.tsgc.utexas.edu/sees-internship/). She shares her experience this summer in this guest blog post.


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