Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
Mosquito season is here, and with it, worry about diseases like Zika and West Nile. At the same time, it’s tricky to track and monitor mosquitos and the diseases they spread. But a new approach using artificial intelligence could finally help researchers better understand how and where the insects are making people sick. A coalition of organizations, including the University of South Florida and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has created new, AI-powered tools to fight mosquito-borne disease and danger.
Why This Matters: The mosquito is one of the deadliest animals globally, and while many species across the globe are threatened by climate change, mosquitos are expected to thrive.More than 700,000 people die each year due to vector-borne diseases, and as the planet warms and the mosquito’s range expands, experts say up to one billion more people could be exposed to mosquito-borne diseases. As with COVID-19, timely and accurate disease tracking could save lives, but contact tracing millimeter-long insects seems nearly impossible. That’s where citizen science, crowd-sourcing, and AI come in.
Worse Than Its Bite: The research is being conducted by a coalition that includes the University of South Florida in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP), The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), and the CDC.
The researchers have created tools that will allow members of the public to track new disease vectors as soon as they appear.
That data will then be processed by a newly developed platform for large-scale, automated identification of mosquito species.
The team primarily hopes to track Aedes aegypti, a species of mosquito primarily responsible for Zika outbreaks, Aedes scapularis, which carries yellow fever, and Aedes vittatus, a carrier of West Nile virus, Zika, and dengue.
The new tracking tools can fit in the palm of your hand; volunteers can help collect data by downloading one of three mobile apps.
Mosquito Alertmonitors adult mosquitoes using photos and monitors bites and breeding grounds.
iNaturalist monitors larval and adult mosquitoes with photos and is a social platform for sharing biodiversity observations used by thousands of organizations and researchers.
“Many people theorize about how citizen science, Earth observation, and machine learning can bring real advances in environmental monitoring and governance. This project takes theory and puts it into practice,” said Dr. Anne Bowser, Deputy Director of STIP.
Experts say that citizens on the ground are the perfect collectors of what could become lifesaving data. “Citizen scientists are the link between mosquitoes and NASA’s Earth Observing Mission. Scientists can’t see mosquitoes from space, but they can identify the environmental conditions that foster mosquito population growth and vector-borne disease outbreaks,” said Dr. Russanne Low of IGES.
“Citizen scientists on the ground provide data about mosquitoes and habitats that enhance our understanding of population response and improve the effectiveness of predictive models linking weather and climate to disease outbreaks.”
Just by downloading an app, every local outdoorsman, or part-time indoorsman, can help reduce the risk of future disease outbreaks and support public health.
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer You may have thought the days of lead, mercury, and even radioactive makeup were long gone, but a new study from the University of Notre Dame has found that over half the cosmetics sold in the U.S. contain PFAS, a class of chemicals linked to health conditions like cancer and reduced birth weights. […]
by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer The Weather Channel broadcast that this summer, the U.S will be a “tick time-bomb,” in that ticks will afflict much broader swathes of the country than in years previous. Even in dry states like California, which is in a historic drought, researchers have been seeing more ticks than ever, […]
Greenways are bike paths that often serve as multi-use, car-free ways to navigate a city. Right now, the U.S. network “comprises a similarly haphazard collection of park-like bicycle- and pedestrian-oriented paths,” as CityLab reports, but that could change if environmental and transportation advocates can land $10 billion for a Greenway Stimulus in the infrastructure deal being negotiated in Congress right now.
Why This Matters: Getting people out of cars and into other modes of getting around is one of the best ways to ramp down carbon emissions in the transportation sector as well as ramp up health and fitness.
Our Daily Planet is your daily dose of the stories shaping our world and the ways that you can take action. From the climate crisis to the protection of biodiversity, if these issues matter to you then please subscribe & stay informed!
Your privacy is Important! We promise never to use your email address to send you spam or advertisements.