GLOBE teacher Vicky Gorman and her middle school students have been working hard to help reduce the threat of mosquito-transmitted disease in their region. Before they began to use the Mosquito Habitat Mapper, they did some research to find out which mosquito-transmitted diseases are found in their location. They live in Burlington County, New Jersey, outlined in red below.
Based on a brochure produced by the NJ government about mosquitoes in their state, the students found out that the two most prevalent diseases transmitted by mosquitoes are West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). Humans can contract both illnesses. Last year in New Jersey, there were 44 cases of West Nile fever; three of which were fatal. There are other mosquito-borne illnesses, but most of those come into the US from travelers. Burlington County is within 1-3 hours of Philadelphia, Liberty International (Newark, NJ), Baltimore, Washington D.C. and all New York airports. All of these cities are entrance points for overseas travelers.
Two teams of students from Gorman's class decided to conduct an investigation to help them determine where and when Culex genus mosquitoes might breed during active season. Culex mosquitoes transmit both West Nile fever and EEE. They like stagnant water and can lay eggs in very shallow water. The students were surprised to find there are also both Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in New Jersey, as well.
As they did research on the Aedes mosquitoes, they discovered that Aedes aegypti and albopictus are often found in south central New Jersey. And, in both cases of the genus Aedes, they expect to find larvae in smaller containers and more sheltered areas, like the rain barrel shown here.
The research teams were excited to start looking for mosquitoes, but winter in NJ means cold temperatures. This makes winter the inactive or dormant season of mosquitoes in the Northeast. However, the students were surprised to learn that mosquitoes can hibernate during cold temps less than 50 degrees F. So, even though it’s winter, the mosquitoes are still around!
As they thought about how they could identify potential breeding habitats, they found several articles about scientists using drones in Central America and Africa to identify potential breeding areas. They decided to try to use drones while there are not very many leaves on the trees in hopes to identify breeding areas in their region.
The two teams worked together to choose sites for drone flyover. They chose the six schools in their district. Each team will look at three sites and then compare their data. The list of places where they might find potential breeding habitats include flat roofs, gutters and drains, playground equipment, and low depression areas or ditches.
A huge thanks to Vicky Gorman for her amazing work! We will update everyone on the results of the research that these amazing students are doing!