Observer News

GO on a Trail with the Mosquito Habitat Mapper!

You may have heard the news- there is an exciting challenge this summer for GLOBE Observer users!

The challenge follows in the spirit of early cartographers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, and you can win one of two ways. First, use GLOBE Observer to map as much land cover as possible in any GLOBE country by September 2. The top data collectors in each GLOBE region will be recognized. Or, for U.S. users, head to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail between Pittsburgh, PA and the Oregon Coast, and take Land Cover and Mosquito Habitat Mapper observations using the GLOBE Observer app. This 3 month campaign kicks off on National Trails Day (June1) and concludes on Labor Day (Sept 2).  Each observation you make along the trail will increase your chances to be one of our top observers and be eligible for a prize package.  Learn more and plan to participate today:

Connect your Mosquito Habitat Mapper Observations with History!

mesquestors, misquestors, misquitor, misquitoes, misquitors, misqutors, misqutr, missquetors, mosquiters, mosquitors, mosquitos, muskeetor, musqueters, musquetors, musquiters, musquitoes, musquitors, musqueters, musqutors- The famed  Lewis and Clark expedition had no less than 19 ways they spelled mosquitoes in their journals, as they repeatedly described their torment, the mosquitoes being  “verry troublesome,”

Here is an example. On July 16, 1806, Meriwether Lewis, the leader of the expedition, noted

the mosquetoes continue to infest us in such manner that we can scarcely exist; for my own part I am confined by them to my bier (canvas mosquito tent)  at least 3/4ths of my time.     my dog even howls with the torture he experiences from them.    they are almost insupportable, they are so numerous that we frequently get them in our thrats as we breath."

Most school children in the U.S. have heard about the Lewis and Clark Trail but are not aware of the scientific significance of this expedition that took place more than 200 years ago. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s 28-month, 8,000 mile journey began just north of St. Louis, MO USA on May 14, 1804. Lewis and Clark and the expedition team, the Corps of Discovery, navigated up the Missouri River, crossed the prairies, navigated through the Rocky Mountains and followed the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean.

Trained in natural history and in methods of collecting plant and animal samples, Lewis and Clark meticulously recorded the conditions of the rivers, prairies, forests, mountains, and wildlife of pre-industrial America- mosquito observations being some of them. The journal entries of the expedition members are very important to science because without base line information about past environmental conditions prior to European colonization of the west, “we don’t know, in quantitative terms, where we have been or where we are going,” (Botkin 1995:95).

In preparation for the journey, Lewis studied medicine, botany, astronomy and zoology as well as the available maps and journals for the region. The expedition was equipped with scientific instruments, including a quadrant, compass, surveying equipment (including an artificial horizon and a theodolite), thermometers, hydrometers and a microscope. Lewis also brought with him maps, charts, and books on botany, geography and astronomy.

The Lewis and Clark journals describe one of the first true Western scientific expeditions in the U.S. and it remains one of the most famous expeditions and trails in U.S. history. However, it is important to remember that the success of Lewis and Clark‘s journey was made possible by the centuries of knowledge shared by members of Indigenous Nations they encountered along the way, as well as that of their interpreter, Sacagawea, a member of the Shoshone Nation and the only woman on the expedition. Sacagawea shared her Indigenous understanding of the landscape and Nations they encountered as well as knowledge of edible plants that proved critical to the expedition team’s survival.

And while the expedition delivered 140 maps and succeeded in documenting more than 100 animals, 178 plants unknown to Western science, it is important to contextualize the expedition within the economic and political goals of the U.S. Government. President Jefferson tasked Meriwether Lewis to explore the territory unknown to the U.S. government that was recently acquired from France in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, and to affirm sovereignty of the U.S. government in the region. In particular the economic desire to identify “…the most direct and practical water communication across the continent for purposes of commerce,” shaped the direction of the Lewis and Clark trail. 

Dr. Daniel Botkin, an influential ecologist from UC Santa Barbara notes, “…there are a few remarkable sets of records- observations by early explorers of North America-that describe vividly and personally the character or the environment before the effects of industrial and technological society. The best of these is the Lewis and Clark journals. With Lewis and Clark as our guides, we can learn much about the environment of our past, our environment today, and what our environment might be in the future,” (Botkin 1995: 18-19). Let’s start by comparing today’s conditions using GLOBE Observer with observations from 200 years ago, as recorded by Lewis and Clark.

Discover Change over Time using the GO on a Trail Field Guide, found in the Flyover Country App

There is a new tool that you can use alongside the GLOBE Observer app  to compare your mosquito observations with entries from the Lewis and Clark Journals. This map is very useful because you can download

1. Download the free Flyover Country App from your app store

2. At the bottom left, select the icon with a rock hammer- these are the field guides.

3. Scroll down to GO on a Trail-GLOBE Observer on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

4. You will see a map with observation locations displayed on the map.

5. in the upper right of the screen you will see a button with stacked squares. click on the button, and turn off all the map layers except for "field guide stops". This will let you see the GO on a Trail sites where you can compare your mosquito and land cover observations with those of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Using GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper along the Lewis and Clark Historical Trail

At the time of the expedition, the Missouri was a wild and treacherous river. Expedition members note the collapse of the sides of the river caused by changes in the river channel that were undercutting the river banks, and noted on occasion where they saw remnant channels from previous years.  Channelization efforts on the Missouri River by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began in the 1930s in an effort to stabilize the floodplain and create a channel suitable for navigation. Now there are more than 17,000 dams and revetments in the Missouri River watershed. These structures have changed the nature of the vegetation found along its shores. Prior to channelization, the Missouri River was between .5-1.5 miles wide, with a wide floodplain that allowed the river channel to migrate 3-4 miles in a single season. Elimination of areas subject to periodic flooding has eliminated species that are adapted to wet conditions, such as cottonwood, which were described frequently in the journals as dominating the vegetation where the expedition struck camp.

You can compare your GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper observations with those of Lewis and Clark expedition members. Do you see mosquitoes where they observed mosquitoes? Is the area where expedition members described mosquitoes as “troublesome” an area today where you see  or would expect to see any mosquito habitats?

Using the GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper, there is a write-in field at the end of Step 3 that says, “Please review or add any comments you’d like us to know about this observation.”  This is a good place for you to note any differences you infer compared to those described in the Lewis and Clark expedition journals.

Using the GLOBE Observer Land Cover tool along the Lewis and Clark Historical Trail

At the time of the expedition, the prairie took up more land area than any other ecosystem in North America. The prairie is now fractured, existing in a mosaic of grassland areas that is now small fraction of its original extent- today’s tall grass prairie, for instance, is estimated at 1% of its original range. And as described above, the Missouri River today may have been several miles away from where Lewis and Clark camped along its banks more than 200 years ago.

The journals kept by members of the Lewis and Clark expedition describe vegetation in and around their campsites in great detail. Compare what you see and record using the GLOBE Observer Land Cover tool with the description from the expedition journals. How different is the site? In the Land Cover tool, you will see a place to put field notes. The app says, “Do you have any additional information about this location, such as historical, recent or planned changes?” This is a place where you can share how different or similar your observations are from those of members of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

In a time of accelerating change on our planet’s landscapes, it is critical that we document our current conditions, so that we are able to measure, quantify, understand and act on changes that we will see in the future. GLOBE Observer engages citizen scientists in describing and quantifying the current conditions we see in land cover, mosquitoes, clouds and tree height. The contribution of GLOBE Observers to maintaining and improving our planet’s health is potentially huge: we can provide base line data today that we can use to track and measure the changes of tomorrow.

“A prerequisite to lasting solutions to environmental issues is a new world view that includes a realistic understanding of what nature was like without human influence. Only with that understanding do we have a basis upon which to judge our actions. Achieving that perception is not simple. We have a few ways to view the nature of our past.  Most of the methods are highly technical and scientific and not of interest to the public,” (Botkin 1995: 18-19). But GLOBE Observer database, derived entirely from public citizen scientist participants, will  in the future be able speak for itself.


Botkin, D.B. 1995 Our Natural History: The Lessons of Lewis and Clark. NY: G. P. Putnam’s Son, 300 p.

Twaites, R. G. 1905 Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition 1804-1806. NY: Dodd, Mead and Co.

Find complete journal entries for the dates here:


News Sidebar

A graphic showing silhouettes of two people taking observations with their phones. They are standing between water with mosquito larvae in it, grass, trees, and clouds, which represent the tools within the GLOBE Observer app.

View more GLOBE Observer news here.