Mosquito Alert shares open data from citizen scientists through GBIF

Project aims to monitor the spread of the Asian tiger mosquitoes to limit transmission of disease-causing viruses that threaten human communities, including Zika, dengue and chikungunya

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Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), observed northeast of Barcelona in June 2017. Photo Mosquito Alert licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Mosquito Alert, a pioneering citizen science project coordinated by three Barcelona-based research centres, has published a dataset containing more than 4,000 photo-based observations of the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) gathered by citizen scientists through the Mosquito Alert app.

Mosquito Alert aims to monitor the spread of both the Asian tiger mosquito and a closely related species, the yellow-fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti). Together, these mosquitoes are responsible for the transmission of several disease-causing viruses that threaten human communities throughout the world, including Zika, dengue and chikungunya.

The initial publication of the Mosquito Alert dataset increases the number of tiger mosquito records for Spain by more than 10,000%—two orders of magnitude. Occurrence records like these help fill a gap in the taxonomic coverage of GBIF-mediated data, which promises to improve the quality of scientific analyses and interventions conducted by both researchers and public health officials. Increases to data coverage will also enable researchers to build on a steadily growing body of research uses, both mosquito-related (below) and broader issues related to biodiversity and human health.

Mosquito Alert is a cooperative, not-for-profit project coordinated by different public research centres: the Center for Ecological Research and Forest Implementation (CREAF), the Blanes Centre for Advanced Studies (CEAB-CSIC) and the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), with cofunding from the “la Caixa” Foundation.

The Mosquito Alert app enables citizens to record sightings of suspected tiger mosquitoes, yellow-fever mosquitoes, and their breeding sites by sharing a picture in this app. Once photos are shared, a team of expert entomologists can validate the observations and collect the GPS location along with other detailed information. Validation results are directly sent to participants, and verified records are published and mapped online so data contributors and users alike can find and export project observations dating back to 2014. While nearly all of the observations are from Spain, citizen scientists have contributed validated records from as far away as Fiji and Hong Kong.

The data hosted by GBIF Spain and shared through GBIF’s global index has been placed into the public domain under a fully open Creative Commons CC0 waiver, which frees them of any restrictions on usage. Photos associated with individual records readily available under a Creative Commons attribution licence (CC BY), which permits their reuse simply on condition of crediting Mosquito Alert as the source. The project’s occurrence records for Ae. aegypti will likely be added in the future.

The information generated by the project complements an intensive scientific effort to help public health authorities control the spread of the Asian tiger mosquito in human communities. Mosquito Alert has also played a critical role in establishing the Global Mosquito Alert Consortium (GMAC), a collaboration led by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), who, with partners (including GBIF), aim to increase the use of citizen science for coordinated mosquito-vector monitoring.

Peer-reviewed mosquito-related research uses of GBIF-mediated data

  • Ding F, Fu J, Jiang D, Hao M & Lin G (2018) Mapping the spatial distribution of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Acta Tropica 178: 155-162. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica.2017.11.020
  • Shabani F, Shafapour Tehrany M, Solhjouy-fard S, Kumar L (2018) A comparative modeling study on non-climatic and climatic risk assessment on Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus) PeerJ6: e4474 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4474
  • Walsh MG & Webb C (2018) Hydrological features and the ecological niches of mammalian hosts delineate elevated risk for Ross River virus epidemics in anthropogenic landscapes in Australia. Parasites & Vectors 11: 192. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-018-2776-x
  • Alaniz AJ, Bacigalupo A & Cattan PE (2017) Spatial quantification of the world population potentially exposed to Zika virus. International Journal of Epidemiology 46(3): 966-975. https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyw366
  • González-Salazar C, Stephens CR & Sánchez-Cordero V (2017) Predicting the Potential Role of Non-human Hosts in Zika Virus Maintenance. EcoHealth 14(1): 171–177. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-017-1206-4
  • Longbottom J, Browne AJ, Pigott DM et al. (2017) Mapping the spatial distribution of the Japanese encephalitis vector, Culex tritaeniorhynchus Giles, 1901 (Diptera: Culicidae) within areas of Japanese encephalitis risk. Parasites & Vectors 10(1): 148. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-017-2086-8
  • Padilla O, Rosas P, Moreno W & Toulkeridis T (2017) Modeling of the ecological niches of the anopheles spp in Ecuador by the use of geo-informatic tools. Spatial and Spatio-temporal Epidemiology 21: 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sste.2016.12.001
  • Talaga S, Leroy C, Guidez A, Dusfour I, Girod R, Dejean A, et al. (2017) DNA reference libraries of French Guianese mosquitoes for barcoding and metabarcoding. PLoS ONE 12(6): e0176993. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0176993
  • Talaga S, Dejean A, Mouza C, Dumont Y & Leroy C (2017) Larval interference competition between the native Neotropical mosquito Limatus durhamii and the invasive Aedes aegypti improves the fitness of both species. Insect Science. https://doi.org/10.1111/1744-7917.12480
  • Alimi TO, Fuller DO, Herrera SV et al. (2016) A multi-criteria decision analysis approach to assessing malaria risk in northern South America. BMC Public Health 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-016-2902-7
  • Carlson CJ, Dougherty ER & Getz W (2016) An Ecological Assessment of the Pandemic Threat of Zika Virus. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 10(8): e0004968. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0004968
  • Escobar LE, Qiao H & Peterson AT (2016) Forecasting Chikungunya spread in the Americas via data-driven empirical approaches. Parasites & Vectors 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-016-1403-y
  • Moyes CL, Shearer FM, Huang Z et al. (2016) Predicting the geographical distributions of the macaque hosts and mosquito vectors of Plasmodium knowlesi malaria in forested and non-forested areas. Parasites & Vectors 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-016-1527-0
  • Samy AM, Elaagip AH, Kenawy MA et al. (2016) Climate Change Influences on the Global Potential Distribution of the Mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus, Vector of West Nile Virus and Lymphatic Filariasis. PLoS ONE 11(10): e0163863. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0163863
  • Alimi TO, Fuller DO, Qualls WA et al. (2015) Predicting potential ranges of primary malaria vectors and malaria in northern South America based on projected changes in climate, land cover and human population. Parasites & Vectors 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-015-1033-9
  • Gwitira I, Murwira A, Zengeya FM, Masocha M & Mutambu S (2015) Modelled habitat suitability of a malaria causing vector (Anopheles arabiensis) relates well with human malaria incidences in Zimbabwe. Applied Geography 60: 130–138. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeog.2015.03.010
  • Kraemer MU, Sinka ME, Duda KA et al. (2015) The global distribution of the arbovirus vectors Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus. eLife 4. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.08347
  • Moraga P, Cano J, Baggaley RF et al. (2015) Modelling the distribution and transmission intensity of lymphatic filariasis in sub-Saharan Africa prior to scaling up interventions: integrated use of geostatistical and mathematical modelling. Parasites & Vectors 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-015-1166-x
  • Capinha C, Rocha J & Sousa CA (2014) Macroclimate Determines the Global Range Limit of Aedes aegypti. EcoHealth 11(3): 420-428. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-014-0918-y
  • Hill MP, Axford JK & Hoffmann AA (2014) Predicting the spread of Aedes albopictus in Australia under current and future climates: Multiple approaches and datasets to incorporate potential evolutionary divergence. Austral Ecology 39: 469–478. https://doi.org/10.1111/aec.12105
  • Pigott DM, Golding N, Mylne A et al. (2014) Mapping the zoonotic niche of Ebola virus disease in Africa. eLife 3: e04395 https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.04395
  • Senay SD, Worner SP, Ikeda T (2013) Novel Three-Step Pseudo-Absence Selection Technique for Improved Species Distribution Modelling. PLoS ONE 8(8): e71218. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0071218
  • Fuller DO, Ahumada ML, Quiñones ML, Herrera S and Beier JC (2012) Near-present and future distribution of Anopheles albimanus in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean Basin modeled with climate and topographic data. International Journal of Health Geographics 11(1): 13. https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-072X-11-13
  • Porretta D, Mastrantonio V, Bellini R, Somboon P & Urbanelli S (2012) Glacial History of a Modern Invader: Phylogeography and Species Distribution Modelling of the Asian Tiger Mosquito Aedes albopictus. PLoS ONE 7(9): e44515. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0044515
  • Kulkarni MA, Desrochers RE and Kerr JT (2010) High Resolution Niche Models of Malaria Vectors in Northern Tanzania: A New Capacity to Predict Malaria Risk? PLoS ONE 5(2): e9396. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0009396
  • Pfeffer M & Dobler G (2010) Emergence of zoonotic arboviruses by animal trade and migration. Parasites & Vectors 3: 35 https://doi.org/10.1186/1756-3305-3-35