“Citizen science”, a cornerstone in the prevention of diseases such as malaria.

Mosquito sucks human blood
Only a small percentage of the more than 3,500 species of mosquitoes carry diseases.
Queen Campos Kaba Queen Campos Kaba Meteor Chile 6 min

A complex concept, often questioned, citizen science is conducted by many stakeholders with different goals scientific, environmental and/or social, including the promotion of research, the creation of a more informed and interested society, influencing public policy or making other decisions.

Much citizen science research focuses on monitor insects and include invasive species, as well as data validation. In this way, citizen scientists can contribute to reducing the global burden mosquito-borne diseases.

The advantage of using citizen science to answer complex research questions, it is the decentralized nature of the communityallowing diverse projects to succeed in all corners of the world.

Given the general lack of vaccines and drugs, proper mosquito control is an important community defense against these pathogens. In addition, there is an almost universal need for more and more sustainable mosquito surveillance and habitat mitigation around the world.

A platform that warns about mosquito communities on the planet

According to the study “Integrating Global Citizen Science Platforms to Enable Next Generation Surveillance of Invasive and Vector Mosquitoes” published in Insects, citizen science offers a globally scalable and cost-effective solution for real-time monitoring of mosquito populations of public health interest.

mosquito larva illustrations
A selection of citizen science images submitted through the Mosquito Habitat Mapper app during the competition. Source: Carney et al. (2022).

In updating this vision, the working group achieved 3 goals:

  • integrate various observational data into a dashboard, useful for researchers, mosquito control specialists and politicians;
  • create citizen science platforms used for vector modeling and successful detection of invasive species;
  • get reusable images for training and testing various new artificial intelligence (AI) solutions.

The results show value and potential of the paradigm featured in the study by the Global Mosquito Alert Consortium, which aims to bring together international projects to promote data sharing, interoperability and reuse.

Global mosquito alert interface
Mosquito Alert user interface. Screenshots illustrating the mobile application control panel. Source: Carney et al. (2022).

Moreover, based on my experience, offer 5 planning recommendations and doing similar citizen science efforts:

  • create visual materials for outreach and education (“what”);
  • communicate with citizen scientists research usefulness of project data (“why”);
  • contact users directly seek your participation and recruitment of others (“who”);
  • evaluate past and current usage within the spatial boundaries of the project (“when” and “where”);
  • standardize the collection of data and metadata using established frameworks and protocols to enable better integration and re-use across platforms in the future (“as”).

Here, the existing socio-technological infrastructure can be used effectivelyby connecting to online and terrestrial communities of citizen scientists equipped with computers in their pockets, i.e. cell phones or smartphones.

The consequences of such events on public health measures and readiness are enhanced by the ability of AI to identify mosquito species, especially given that few species can transmit diseases that justify follow-up.

As the climate changes, and with it the environment, fluctuations in biodiversity can be documented through global citizen science efforts.

A comprehensive vision of future infections between animals and humans

“Vector monitoring and control, contribute to understanding in evolution not only a changing world, but also what this means for health outcomes, mentions the research team in his findings.

This type of interdisciplinary approach to public health is becoming a new standard for understanding disease, mainly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its likely zoonotic origin (infection between animals and humans).

Global Mosquito Watch Dashboard
Screenshot from the Global Mosquito Observations dashboard, accessed June 30, 2022. Source: Carney et al. (2022).

Coordinated efforts can lead to new synergies, thanks to international cooperation between different institutions, allowing for the harmonization of datasets resonate around the world in powerful and unexpected ways for researchers, mosquito control specialists and politicians.

Taken together, citizen science and AI, establish a framework for next-generation surveillance that can serve global monitoring and early warning system in the coming years.

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