By Chris Neill
MBL Logan Science Journalism Environmental fellows Codi Kozacek (left), Susan Phillips and Nick Clark help Baltimore Ecosystems Study research assistant Heather Goodman collect water from trash in an abandoned lot in inner Baltimore. Tiny amounts of water in trash serve as breeding habitat for mosquitoes. The BES studies the relationship between income levels, urban habitat and the composition and abundance of urban mosquito communities. Credit: Chris Neill
In urban West Baltimore, the mosquito Aedes albopictus is an increasing nuisance. Another species, Culex pipiens, is an important vector for West Nile virus. Both species are more common in low-income neighborhoods because they breed in ephemeral standing water created by trash, such as plastic cups and old tires.
Six MBL Logan Science Journalism Program (SJP) Environmental Fellows, led by Baltimore Ecosystems Study (BES) scientist Shannon LaDeau and BES researcher Heather Goodman, sampled larval mosquitoes and surveyed mosquito habitats in two inner-city blocks in West Baltimore last week. Back in the laboratory, they identified mosquito species under dissecting microscopes.
The SJP Environmental Fellows ventured to inner-city Baltimore to participate in one of the world’s largest coordinated studies of urban ecosystems. The BES is one of the National Science Foundation’s 26 Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) projects.
The Baltimore Ecosystems Study examines how the human-built ecosystem of a large U.S. city influences ecological process such as nutrient flows in watersheds and plant species composition along gradients from the inner city to outlying “exurbs,” and how peoples’ attitudes to green space and other ecological features shape the structure of city neighborhoods.
The Environmental Fellows spent two days with BES scientists. They also collected water samples from streams running from the inner city to an outlying area with Peter Groffman, and from storm-water detention ponds managed in different ways by neighborhood associations with Chris Swan.
The Logan Science Journalism Program’s Environmental Hands-On Research Course is led by MBL Ecosystems Center Director Chris Neill and Ecosystems Center Senior Research Assistant Richard McHorney. The Environmental Fellows are joining the SJP Biomedical Fellows at the MBL this week to complete their fellowship in Woods Hole.