Mosquitoes and Manatees

At Yale, I am a joint masters student between the schools of Forestry and Public Health interested in the relationships between ecology, environmental health, and human health outcomes.  My internship, as groundwork for the thesis that I will write next year, hastaken me to Patillas, Puerto Rico.  In Patillas, the Center for Disease Control Dengue Branch has ongoing research on the mosquitoes that transmit the dengue viruses. The story of dengue, how it has emerged and how it is propagated as an urban disease, provides a powerful illustration of how many of the feats of modernization can lead to the spread of disease.

The trap we use to catch the adult mosquitoes

Where mosquitoes lay their eggs...

In collaboration with the dengue branch’s research in Patillas, I am working to incorporate the utilities of remote sensing and GIS to map the ecological features and characterize the drivers of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito in question.  With the generous monetary and intellectual support of fellowships and faculty at Yale’s Schools of Forestry and Public Health, I am using cutting edge satellite imagery to investigate the potential use of remote sensing to further characterize the ecological drivers dengue and better focus limited resources to areas most at risk.  This internship is a balance between the interests of the CDC Dengue Branch, my supervisor on the ground here, my faculty advisors at Yale, and my own training and research for my thesis.  I came into this project with remote sensing and GIS analytical skills and the goal of applying those skills to a very important, practical problem that cuts across the aforementioned fulcrum of environment and health.

Through the familial web of FES I got in touch with a Puerto Rican FES student who happens to be from the neighboring municipality to the west of Patillas.  Carmen put me in touch with two friends she knew from a successful fight to turn an untouched track of mangroves and coconut tree lined beaches into a nature preserve.  One of those friends, Ana, found me a wonderful little apartment to rent over her sister’s restaurant, Mar de la Tranquilidad.  The apartment is located between a busy thoroughfare and the Caribbean.  Through the gentle green shade of leaves the water sparkles and occasionally the manatees come to munch on sea grass.  Ana’s family is extensive and effusively warm and hospitable.  I feel so lucky to have come to such a beautiful place, have such interesting work, and be cared for by such wonderful people.

Water containers can be good larvae habitat