Live from the Field: Mosquito Habitat Mapping in Honolulu HI USA

Have app, will travel! I am reporting from the field, the campus of the University of Hawaii, Manoa (UHM). I am meeting with citizen scientists here who are collecting data using the GLOBE Observer app. I had the good fortune to meet Dr. Floyd Reed, a professor in the Department of Biology. His lab is involved in modifying strains of Culex mosquitoes so that they are unable to transmit avian (bird) malaria, a disease responsible for the ongoing extinction of many of Hawai’i’s native bird species.

Dr. Reed agreed to go out and collect mosquitoes with us this morning, using the GLOBE Observer (GO) Mosquito Habitat Mapper.  One caveat: he made us promise to not dump out water or mitigate the site, because the site he was going to show us was his “nursery” where he obtained specimens to use in the lab. Of course, we agreed- he is raising mosquitoes for science.

We met this morning at the specified time, in front of the university library. I looked around, looking for likely mosquito habitats- I saw nothing that resembled any habitats I have seen where I live.

         See any familiar habitats in this photo?

“Look closer,” he said. As we approached an old tree, he pointed out that there were puddles of water in hollows formed in the roots.              

A possible mosquito breeding site among the tree roots.

Here were Aedes albopictus mosquitoes living in their “ancestral” tree-hole home. These mosquitoes are frequently found in manufactured containers today, like clay plant pots, but this natural container breeding site was especially attractive to the mosquito moms- it is in perpetual shade, rich in organic matter, and with no fish predators- a perfect nursery.

Dr. Floyd Reed, UHM

We collected the Aedes albopictus, but Dr. Reed was looking for Culex mosquitoes to raise in his lab. We scored- finding two different species of mosquito larvae in the same breeding site.

Returning to the lab, we counted 21 larvae and 2 pupae in our grab sample. You can see the samples we collected this week by going to the GLOBE Visualization System, select and submit the protocol layer (Hydrosphere → Mosquito Habitat Mapper), and then center the map interface on Hawai’i. Enter data counts  from February 20-27, 2019.

Both Dr. Reed and I would like to hear about some of the more unusual habitats you have identified during your observations. Keeping an eye out for unusual mosquito breeding habitats you may have observed will help him find mosquitoes in the field and help him in his research. Connect with us in the Science Cafe!


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