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Get ‘buzz’-y

Seeking citizen mosquito collectors in N.L. and St. Pierre and Miquelon

Research

By Kelly Foss

If a relaxing evening in the backyard has ever been ruined by the incessant buzz of a mosquito, now’s your chance to get a little revenge.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Mosquito Project is looking for citizen scientists to collect mosquito samples this summer in Newfoundland and Labrador and the French territory of St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Tegan Padgett
Tegan Padgett is calling all citizen scientists! The N.L. Mosquito Project needs your help.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Tegan Padgett is the project’s manager and a master’s student in the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science.

She says the aim of the project, which is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, is to get a better understanding of the distribution of mosquito species across the two regions, and what, if any, viral pathogens they may carry.

The diverse project team is made up of Dr. Atanu Sarkar, a public health specialist from the Division of Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine; Dr. Andrew Lang and Dr. Marta Canuti, both virologists; Dr. Tom Chapman, an entomologist; and Kate Carson, a mosquito identification expert, all with the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science.

Also on the team are Dr. Joel Finnis, a climate scientist from the Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Dr. Hugh Whitney, the retired chief veterinary officer with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

A mosquito
Mosquitos in Newfoundland and Labrador are an understudied health concern.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Changing climate

Ms. Padgett says the main goal is to try to get as many samples as possible, process them for identification and do a viral analysis to see what viruses they carry. After that, they’ll do a comparison to see if climate change is affecting the distribution and range of the mosquitos and viruses.

She says the project is important because mosquitoes in this province are an understudied health concern.

“As we all know, temperatures are changing and species ranges are shifting. It’s important to recognize that. We also don’t have a comprehensive understanding of what mosquito species are here or what viruses they might be carrying. If we don’t know that, we won’t know if something changes in the future.”

Pooter
Mosquitos can be caught using an aspirator known as a “pooter.”
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Citizen science

Ms. Padgett says involving the public in a citizen science project not only helps the team get samples from more places, it can also have an educational component.

She’s made it a priority to get their findings back to collectors, so they know what species they submitted. The group’s Facebook and Twitter pages also provide information about the various species in the province.

The project officially began last year, but will have its big collection year this summer. The team is keeping a watchful eye out for this season’s first mosquitos to appear, but they anticipate the project will get underway in May or June.

They are looking for individuals, groups, schools or anyone interested in collecting mosquitoes in different areas, including at the cabin, on a hike or in backyards.

Watch the video below for more information about participating and how to use the collecting equipment.

Collecting samples

“When people get in touch, I will send them a free sample collection kit, including an instruction sheet, labeled collection tubes, a “pooter” – which is an aspirator for collecting small insects – that they can keep, and a postage paid envelope for them to return their samples,” said Ms. Padgett.

“It’s a great project to participate in because it’s easy and people of all ages can do it. You just use the pooter straw to suck the mosquito into the collection tube – there’s a screen over the end of the straw so you don’t inhale them yourself. It’s also pretty compact, so we’re hoping people will carry it with them where ever they go.”

To become a mosquito collector for the N.L. Mosquito Project, get in touch via email or call (709) 864-4024.


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