Bioethics News

The Case for Sharing All of America’s Data on Mosquitoes

August 24, 2017

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For decades, agencies around the United States have been collecting data on mosquitoes. Biologists set traps, dissect captured insects, and identify which species they belong to. They’ve done this for millions of mosquitoes, creating an unprecedented trove of information—easily one of the biggest long-term attempts to monitor any group of animals, if not the very biggest.

The problem, according to Micaela Elvira Martinez from Princeton University and Samuel Rund from the University of Notre Dame, is that this treasure trove of data isn’t all in the same place, and only a small fraction of it is public. The rest is inaccessible, hoarded by local mosquito-control agencies around the country.

Currently, these agencies can use their data to check if their attempts to curtail mosquito populations are working. Are they doing enough to remove stagnant water, for example? Do they need to spray pesticides? But if they shared their findings, Martinez and Rund say that scientists could do much more. They could better understand the ecology of these insects, predict the spread of mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever or Zika, coordinate control efforts across states and counties, and quickly spot the arrival of new invasive species.

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Image: By SSgt Caleb Pierce – http://www.defenseimagery.mil/imageRetrieve.action?guid=cdcaeb085fcd31fc6a8707c77f59d81d824a406e&t=2, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26669396

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The Atlantic

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.