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U.S. Department of State Highlights GLOBE Scientist Helping Citizen Scientists Act as “Agents of Change” in Battle Against Zika

Photo of Rusty Low

A recent DipNote blog (the official blog of the U.S. Department of State) highlighted a long-time GLOBE Earth Scientist, Russanne (Rusty) Low, and her innovative project to teach citizen scientists to roll down their sleeves and engage in the battle against infectious disease outbreaks – including the current Zika outbreak – with the help of the GLOBE Observer App.

Working with The GLOBE Program since 2001, Rusty previously served as the Desk Officer for Africa and the Middle East. Today she continues her affiliation with GLOBE as a Master Trainer, and a member of the GISN (GLOBE International STEM Network). She continues to provide significant contributions to The GLOBE Program through her work as a climate scientist at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES). She also serves on the NASA Biodiversity and Ecological Forecasting team. 

Through the IGES/GLOBE partnership, Rusty has served in numerous multi-faceted capacities, and arenas, in her enduring quest to put science to work to benefit Earth’s environment. As the Lead Scientist for the GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper, Rusty has focused on inspiring citizen scientists to join in the battle to reduce the risks of disease buzzing in and around their own backyards and communities. “Citizen scientists can be agents of change,” Low said, “reducing the risk of Zika and other vector-borne diseases.”

“I’m interested in climate,” Low stated in the blog, “how it’s changing, and how mosquitoes are responding to these changes by becoming an invasive species and expanding into new habitats.” In addition to spreading Zika, mosquitoes are also responsible for the transmission of malaria, dengue, West Nile Virus, and yellow fever – killing millions of people and animals every year.

The GLOBE Observer (GO) Mosquito Habitat Mapper App, a mobile app funded by NASA, allows everyone with a smartphone to get to down-and-dirty in the fight against mosquito-related infectious diseases. Citizen scientists can easily download and use the app to identify potential mosquito breeding sites and to count samples of mosquito larvae. The specimens collected by these intrepid individuals can be identified using a small magnifying lens that clips onto a mobile phone. This information, entered into a global database, can then be used by scientists and public health authorities in the fight against vector-borne disease.

In 2016, Low applied for – and received – a grant from the Combating Zika and Future Threats Grand Challenge (funded through USAID). As the Director of the GLOBE Observer Mosquito Challenge, Low set up a pilot program in Peru and Brazil, two countries greatly impacted by infectious disease outbreaks. Through this endeavor, students – acting as citizen scientists – used the GO Habitat Mapper to collect and share mosquito data, and to help develop local mitigation measures to reduce the risk of disease.

The grant also funded the development of educational materials for teachers to use in their classrooms. Low and her team have now trained over 250 teachers, and provided the necessary materials and equipment to help educate and motivate students to put their expanding scientific discovery skills to use in a quest to battle an issue that impacts them directly.

“The project,” Low was quoted as saying in the blog, “will create new data sets that do not exist today; help students better understand their environment and mitigate risk; deliver the new data sources to health officials and their communities; and enable the efforts to be replicated throughout the world.”

To read more about Rusty Low, click here.

To read the entire DipNote blog, click here.

To learn more about the GLOBE Observer App (and the Mosquito Habitat Mapper) and how you can download and put it to use today, click here.

type: globe-news

News origin: GLOBE Implementation Office