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Catawba Student Describes Internship as “A Very Buggy Summer”

October 5, 2016

Category: Academics, Biology, Events, Students

By Catawba College Student Shannon Garrick ’17

 L-R: Shannon Garrick, Brandon Williamson,
and Taylor Kessans

Never in a million years would I have imagined looking for mosquito larvae in a graveyard as a part of an internship. However, in late July, two other interns and I had the opportunity to do just that in Cabarrus County as we looked for larvae and set up traps for mosquito collections.

Ever since I started at Catawba as a biology major, Dr. Carmony Hartwig, assistant professor of biology, has been my mentor. She has allowed me to have opportunities, both in and out of classes, to shadow, learn, and even have independent research opportunities associated with her own mosquito research here at Catawba, which is something she is extremely passionate about.

In early May, I found out that Cabarrus Health Alliance opened up several internship positions for mosquito trapping and collection, under Chrystal Swinger, a registered environmental health specialist there, who has collected and trapped mosquitos in Cabarrus County. These positions, funded by grants, opened up in response to Zika virus.

Starting in June, two other interns and I set out traps in many locations (both current and new permanent sites) in Cabarrus County, including Concord, Midland, Kannapolis, and Harrisburg. We used light traps, both dry ice and lures (traps that have pheromones – the chemicals that we give off) and set out a sentinel trap.

SAM_5310.JPGIn addition to setting out traps, we also collected larval samples from a variety of places, including creeks in the local parks, plastic containers, tires, and ditches. We also had five ovitrap locations, in Kannapolis, Concord, and Mount Pleasant, in which we collected weekly and sent the samples off for identification to Western Carolina University. In addition to setting out traps and doing collections, we helped contribute to 2016 data on the species that were found in Cabarrus County, especially looking for the mosquito responsible for the Zika Virus, Aedes aeygpti.

The other part of this internship focused on the public health aspect of it. We went out to places that had filed complaints and surveyed the location for potential breeding grounds. While visiting areas that had filed complaints, we passed out educational materials to help those in the local area know what to do to prevent mosquito breeding, which includes dumping any standing water left in containers.

SAM_5318.JPGLastly, we learned about what preventative measures are used in response to mosquito breeding. First off, the focus is to get rid of any sources of standing water, commonly found in plastic containers, bird baths, kiddie pools, kiddie slides, and tires. However, for areas where these are not the causes, there are a few options to prevent breeding. These include use of MMF (larvicide/pesticide), Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti), also known as mosquito dunks, and gambusia (which are fish that eat mosquito larvae). Lastly, we learned about integrated pest control using Toxorhyncites rutilus, also known as elephant mosquitos. This particular species does not bite humans but does consume the larvae of other mosquitoes.

This internship taught me more about fieldwork and public health, both ideal areas for possible career options after I graduate in May 2017. I am planning on completing a thesis paper for my Biological Capstone class using what I have learned this summer during my internship. Additionally, I will be doing an independent research project on mosquito biodiversity, comparing the mosquito data from both the Fred Stanback Jr. Preserve here on the Catawba campus, and from Cabarrus County.

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