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EPA and the Smithsonian: Partnering in a Land Use and Biodiversity Study

2009 September 2

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

In March 2007, an agency-wide Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Smithsonian Institution (SI) was signed, recognizing a shared interest in collaborating to promote intellectual exchange and the advancement of education and outreach on a wide range of scientific topics.

One of the areas in which we have been working in partnership with the Smithsonian is in studying the relationship between land use, biodiversity, and human health. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s (STRI) network of tropical forest plots is being developed into a system of Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatories (SIGEO), which has and will continue to provide critical scientific data about how tree biomass and biodiversity are responding and adapting to increases in atmospheric CO2 and global warming. In addition to modeling the global carbon budget, we recognized that SIGEO serves as an excellent platform to explore the dynamics and mechanisms underlying the relationship between anthropogenic stressors, changes in biodiversity, and disease transmission to humans because the sites have been so well characterized ecologically. EPA and STRI are working together to inventory and monitor important animal groups such as vertebrates and arthropods that can play important roles in human disease transmission.

Why is this a timely research opportunity? Mosquitoes are medically the most important group of Diptera, both in the numbers of disease agents they transmit and the magnitude of health problems these diseases cause worldwide, and climate change is predicted to expand vector range and exacerbate disease.

Our collaboration will use appropriate temperate and tropical plots that are part of the SIGEO network to assess the status and trends of mosquito species populations over time and evaluate whether infectious disease transmission risk is being altered in response to changes in climate and surrounding land-use. CDC has also joined as a partner to evaluate collected mosquitoes for the presence of arboviruses of public health importance and identification of the vector species they are utilizing in distinct habitats. Comparison of the findings from this study with an ongoing CDC study of arbovirus presence in nearby Guatemala will provide a better estimate of the risk of human and animal epidemics due to movement of zoonotic arboviruses throughout Central America. Mosquito monitoring will also add new information to Smithsonian’s MosquitoMap, a new web-based, geospatially referenced clearinghouse for mosquito species collection records and distribution models.

EPA is working with STRI, CDC, Smithsonian Museum Support Center, and the Gorgas Memorial Lab in Panama.

For more information on EPA’s Biodiversity and Human Health activities, see:

About the author: Montira Pongsiri, PhD, MPH, is an Environmental Health Scientist in EPA’s Office of the Science Advisor.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. Johnny R. permalink
    September 2, 2009

    If mosquitoes are a growing problem it is because the human race is a growing problem, growing relentlessly around the World, pushing its commercial ventures into jungle areas, polluting and disrupting the biosphere to such an extent its natural balance is ruined, causing more extreme but quite natural reactions trying to heal itself. Laurie Garret’s book “The Coming Plague” is still relevant.

  2. Johnny R. permalink
    September 2, 2009

    After reading these many articles and comments, it is clear that the “Environmental Protection Agency” is deliberately ignoring the impending environmental disaster as the human population and its industrial pollution continue to grow and destroy the biosphere we all need to survive, the consequence being that we will not.

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    September 3, 2009

    The collaboration with the Smithsonian and CDC will amount to a major step forward in understanding how natural processes respond to major climate change. It is also critical to cut water, air, and soil pollution to the maximum extent possible as soon as possible. Corporations always call doing this over regulation, micro management and say it cost too much to do it. They have been saying this since the first federal and state environmental laws were passed and their arguments just keep being recycled. The corporations have said and continue to say that global warming is nothing more than a hoax even as more and more scientific evidence comes in to say otherwise. They say it cost too much to reduce pollution. The truth is it cost too much not to cut pollution to the maximumextent possible as soon as possible. We also need to get away from the idea that if a woman asks for an abortion that means she has something wrong with her head. The idea that you should have as many babies as you can needs to change as the rate of population growth is outstripping the earth’s resources to keep up. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  4. Johnny R. permalink
    September 3, 2009

    Wise words Mr. Bailey, but it appears we are being studiously ignored, business as usual still the order of the day, week, month and year.

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