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Researchers that are examining mosquitoes enlist citizen scientists to assist with data collection



Jonesboro, Arkansas – In Jonesboro, studies are being conducted to reduce backyard pests this summer.

A team of researchers from Arkansas State University is looking for community support to combat mosquitoes, one of the season’s worst pests.

“With Arkansas leading the nation, Craighead County is one of the five top rice-producing counties. When rice fields are flooded in early summer, significant mosquito development can occur. These rice fields extend into the city resulting in substantial mosquito nuisance issues,” said Dr. Tanja McKay, professor of entomology and chair, the Department of Biological Sciences.

Six traps were positioned in different locations as part of a study conducted in Craighead County in 2009. During the course of six months, over 91,000 mosquitoes were collected, of which sixteen species were recognized.

Ten traps will be set for this project, and they will be placed across the city in different places.

“This is a citizen science project where we will be working with citizens of Jonesboro to get them excited about science while educating the public on mosquitoes,” added McKay.

There will only be five to ten traps a week in this project. According to McKay, the study team is currently looking for locals who would be willing to set up a trap on their land. Over the summer, a member of the study team will make two visits to each area.

Staff professionals and nine graduate and undergraduate students are involved in the study. Researchers from the Department of Psychology and Counseling and the Department of Biological Sciences are among them.

Interviews with participants will take place both before and after the experiment to find out if their views on citizen science have changed as a result of their involvement.

“We are interested in the attitude of the participants in the citizen science project. We want to know if, by participating, they are more interested in science than they were before they participated,” said Bentonville native Ashley Lestina, who recently received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from A-State.

“We want to educate citizens about mosquito-integrated pest management and monitor mosquito populations through citizen-led trapping efforts. The mosquitoes in the traps will be counted and identified by species,” McKay said.

“I am excited to work on a new organism and work on trapping and monitoring. We will see where the mosquitoes are emerging and where the populations are peaking. We can find out where the hot spots are,” said Laura Starkus, lab technician.

A member of the study team will visit with the resident and place the trap overnight after deciding on a site. The device will be retrieved and its contents examined first thing the following morning.

According to McKay, their goal is to place traps so that mosquitoes may be gathered from various locations throughout the city to determine the source of the greatest concentration.

“We would like to get as many citizens as possible in Jonesboro to participate in this project. By working together, we can make a real difference in promoting public health and advancing scientific knowledge,” she continued.

The City of Jonesboro is contracted with Vector Disease Control International in the eradication of mosquitoes through pesticide treatments in the city limits. McKay said the monitoring data will be reported to Vector too. use to continue their efforts.

“We will be working closely with Vector Disease Control to give them the data the citizens of Jonesboro acquire and that data will help Vector to decide if a management tactic is needed for managing the mosquitoes in that area,” shared McKay.

The $50,000 study was funded through a grant by the City of Jonesboro.

For the citizen research project to be successful, volunteers are needed. Those interested in having a trap in their yard for the collection of mosquitoes can follow this link to volunteer:

For more information, contact McKay at 870-972-3240.

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