Zika mosquito

Dawn Biehler brings fresh perspective to pest control on WYPR

The Zika outbreak has brought renewed attention to strategies for controlling pest populations across the country. Dawn Biehler, an associate professor of geography and environmental systems, recently joined WYPR’s “Humanities Connection” program to explain how the humanities can help inform environmental research on pest and rodent control.

“Studying unwanted animals like rats and mosquitoes might seem more a topic for the natural or health sciences than for the humanities,” Biehler said during her segment, which aired June 24 on WYPR. “But humanities disciplines can open up important ways of understanding humans’ relationships with the creatures we call pests.”

Biehler is leading a research team that is working on an extensive study to determine whether a neighborhood having more mosquitoes translates to a greater risk of disease transmission. The researchers are focusing on West and Southwest Baltimore neighborhoods to study how abandoned buildings can sustain mosquito populations.

In her “Humanities Connection” segment, Biehler explained that legacies of discrimination and urban planning have led to current patterns of infestation, and her research team is engaging residents in environmental and political action to make communities healthier and to advocate for better mosquito control. As part of the Baltimore Mosquito Study, residents have been working on producing community photography and oral histories to tell the stories of the environments they live in.

“Perhaps these stories of environmental past and present can help us understand what we need to do today to help make Baltimore healthier,” Biehler said.

Listen to the full segment on the Maryland Humanities website.

Image: Asian Tiger Mosquito. Photo by frankieleon, CC by 2.0