CNH: Urban Disamenities and Pests: Coupled Dynamics of Urban Mosquito Ecology and Human Systems Across Socioeconomically Diverse Communities

This project will test whether urban social and economic decay and urban infestations of mosquitoes feedback upon one another and, if so, how to break this vicious cycle. Research in Baltimore, Maryland, will examine whether features of urban decay such as population decline, abandoned lots, and unmanaged refuse promote mosquito production and whether this in turn discourages care for and use of the outdoor environment by residents and exacerbates urban decay. Comprehensive sampling in three focal neighborhoods will quantify the association between the abundances of mosquitoes and the physical and socio-economic status of neighborhoods, and how mosquito exposure influences resident support for and participation in outdoor activities and urban revitalization. Experiments will identify activities that best support and motivate resident-led strategies to control mosquitoes. Specifically, researchers will: 1) assess the quality and quantity of positive and negative social and environmental features in each neighborhood ; 2) quantify mosquito abundance and identify mechanisms that facilitate winter survival; 3) measure resident knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors associated with controlling mosquito breeding habitat and personal exposure; and 4) test the efficacy of education and active citizen-science interventions in changing mosquito control behaviors of residents and their perceptions about neighborhood greening projects. Results will increase understanding of coupled human and pest dynamics in an urban context and provide fundamental information for translating ecological theory in urban ecosystems and developing socio-ecological theory for sustainable advances in urban greening and public health.

Coupled human-mosquito dynamics are an important model for developing new socio-ecological theory on human-pest interactions, improving urban quality of life, and engaging broader community participation in neighborhood revitalization. Despite over a century of organized and often sophisticated efforts to control mosquitoes, nuisance complaints persist and mosquito-borne diseases are a persistent and growing concern in urban communities across the globe. The need for personal responsibility in managing urban pests at the scale of individual parcels is increasingly viewed as the better route to mosquito control in urban and suburban settings. This work investigates this socio-ecological system, integrating expertise and theory from community ecology, geography, education, and environmental justice. The research is designed to include community leaders and residents at all stages of data collection, interpretation, and dissemination, as well as in brainstorming remediation strategies. The project will train graduate and undergraduate students, including members of under-represented groups, use social media to recruit and involve citizen scientists and community members, and partner with city and state agencies and a community-based foundation.