Determining Mosquito Distribution from Egg Data: The Role of the Citizen Scientist

Cohnstaedt, L. W.; Ladner, J.; Campbell, L.; Busch, N. R.; Barrera, R.
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Experiment/Lab Activity , Instructor Guide/Manual , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Project , Activity , Article
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



The lesson contained in this article from the April 2016 issue of The American Biology Teacher is designed to engage students in three-dimensional learning as they participate in The Invasive Mosquito Project (USDA) -- a citizen science project. This project gives students the opportunity to study the population dynamics of two invasive, pathogen-transmitting mosquito species at different scales. In the lesson, students collect mosquito eggs in their local environment and rear a portion of them to adults. The students then determine the mosquito species and associated health risks in their community.  Students and teachers may participate in a national mosquito-species-distribution study by submitting mosquito eggs and adults to the USDA. All data submitted will be available to all project participants, making each student and school part of a larger project. The lesson and all supplementary materials may be found at:

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • High School
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

HS-LS2-2 Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.

Clarification Statement: Examples of mathematical representations include finding the average, determining trends, and using graphical comparisons of multiple sets of data.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to provided data.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Although the lesson provides many supporting materials, students have the responsibility to plan and carry out their investigations. Detailed instructions are supplied about how to use oviposition cups to safely capture and identify mosquitoes, but where to place the cups and what factors to test are entirely up to the students. The suggested data analysis questions in Table 4 may help to identify key ideas that could guide students in planning how to analyze, represent, and/or model their data. Also, students can be encouraged to write down their “I wonder…” questions as they explore the provided resources that give important context to this phenomenon of vector-borne disease transmission. Students should be encouraged to think about the factors that may affect these invasive mosquito species both locally and at a larger scale, such as their community, county, or state. If they participate in sharing their data in the national data bank, they also have opportunity to look at national trends over time. Providing students with plenty of opportunities to pair-share, group-share, or class-share will help students to support and/or revise their explanations of spreading disease (or the risk of spreading disease) by these invasive mosquito species.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The emphasis in this lesson is on the collection and representation of data to support and/or revise explanations. Creating a data table that reflects the students’ experimental design will be the students’ responsibility. It will be important to monitor students’ designs from the beginning, so that the data they collect actually supports their research questions. As suggested above, science journals or small-group/class discussions will facilitate monitoring students’ progress in planning their investigations.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The article states that students have the responsibility to design their investigations. Teachers may want to consider different ways to monitor students’ thinking throughout the design process, such as science journals or small-group/class discussions. Creating a shared list of questions that are elicited from the background information may help to create an open forum where students can share ideas of how to plan investigations that will provide data that answer their questions. This may also lead to a conversation about the difference between causation and correlation. The science and engineering practices are not discrete from one another, and so by engaging in this lesson, students will also obtain, evaluate, and communicate information from the resources; ask questions in order to design their investigation; plan and carry out their investigation; and analyze and interpret their data.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The concept of carrying capacity is not addressed within this lesson. The design of the students’ investigations will influence how well the lesson supports the rest of this core idea. One way to address this concern is for teachers to facilitate opportunities for students to discuss the different placements of the oviposition cups and to compare their data that results over time from these different placements. The environmental conditions that produce the greatest and/or least number of eggs should be the focus of such discussions. What would happen if the most optimum conditions for the growth of a particular invasive mosquito species was met? The impact on the stability of the local ecosystem, the resulting risk of spreading disease, and other aspects of population growth are all potential discussion topics. In cases where mosquito egg counts are low, how can these conditions be represented throughout the community to discourage the spread of disease?

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Individual student data will provide information at the smallest scale. Comparing data from students throughout the class as well as sourcing data from local mosquito control groups will provide information at the community scale. If teachers and students select the option to participate in the national collection of data through the The Invasive Mosquito Project, then data is available at the national level. Using the data at different scales may produce different trends and/or patterns; students may find that their explanations supported by data at the local level are not as well supported by data at the community or national levels. Teachers may want to consider ways to foster thoughtful consideration of the different scales. One way may be to think of different ways to represent the data so that students can make easy comparisons among the data. Tables, graphs, and/or maps may provide helpful representations for comparisons. In addition, teachers may also want to use freely available Internet resources to help students understand orders of magnitude (e.g.,,

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson is designed to engage students in three-dimensional learning as they make sense of the risk of diseases being transmitted to humans by two invasive mosquito species. Students engage in a variety of science and engineering practices as they plan and carry out an investigation to obtain data that answers their questions about the factors that affect these populations within their respective ecosystems. By producing individual or small group results, engaging in peer review and evaluation of class results, and then comparing their results to data collected nationally, students can better understand how the phenomenon impacts ecosystems at larger scales.

  • Instructional Supports: The lesson described in this article provides evidence that students are engaged in a very contemporary and vital research effort that has local, state, and national relevance. The freedom to develop and carry out an investigation of their own, yet still participate in a citizen science effort, reflects the practice of science in the real world. The topic is personal, as mosquitoes and the diseases they carry are potential risks to all U.S. citizens. Suggestions are made about how students can share their thinking: small group and class discussions, presentations, small group sharing using whiteboards, and contributing to a forum on the Citizen Science website ( The article does not make suggestions to support building on learning progressions but does provide suggestions for differentiated support. Additional resources for students with high interest are provided, as well as a variety of background information, depending on students’ needs. Suggestions are made for implementing the lesson at different levels of engagement. Although teachers and students have freedom to design and carry out their particular investigations, the article supports teachers by offering multiple suggestions about how to do so.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The lesson does make visible student learning by the class discussions and/or whiteboard sharing mentioned above. Quizzes and worksheets are offered for the purpose of formative assessment. Keys to the worksheets and quizzes are available by emailing the authors at

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: There are no technologically interactive components in the actual lesson. However, there are a number of suggested Internet resources provided at the Citizen Science website ( ).