People - GLOBE Observer
Dr. Rusty Low
Where are you from?
I grew up in Maryland in the United States. I completed my BA at the University of Maine, did PhD work at the University of Munich and completed my dissertation at the University of Minnesota. My first job was as a professor at the University of Maryland, Munich. So you can see how easy it was for me – I have one “UM” tee shirt that describes most of where I’ve lived and most of my academic life!
What do you do?
I am a Senior Scientist at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in Arlington, VA. I work with scientists, communicators and teachers -– some of the most dynamic people you will ever meet.
How do you use GLOBE Observer?
I am one of the lead scientists who developed the key used in the Mosquito Habitat Mapper app. I have used the app in an USAID project with teachers and students in Brazil and Peru, mapping mosquito habitats around their schools and in their communities. Reporting mosquito habitats and mitigating them so they can’t be used for breeding sites can make a big difference and decrease disease transmission in a community. Where I live in Colorado, it is semi-arid so there are only container habitats near my home. I saw firsthand the importance of not storing my winter tires outside in back of the barn – I had inadvertently created a perfect little mosquito nursery! Lots of larvae! Right now I am doing field research in Barbuda, a small island in the Caribbean, where we first tested the GO Mosquito Habitat Mapper app concept.
How do you plan to use GLOBE Observer in the future?
I am very interested in seeing how the GO Mosquito Habitat Mapper data correlate with GO Land Cover data. I have been working for 2 weeks describing the vegetation in Barbuda using a Land Cover app, as well as doing vegetation descriptions of floral formations. Once the snow melts in my home in the mountains of Boulder Colorado, I am planning to do a land cover survey of Lefthand Canyon, the canyon where I live in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. That is my “at home” citizen science project!
Why is citizen science important to you?
The essence of science is sharing data and discovery – for the greater good. I feel like every time I take a measurement, I am doing something that helps the world in a very small way. Not in a big, obvious, tangible way, like my husband who is a volunteer fireman and actually saves lives. But as one of millions of people reporting data, what can emerge is a better understanding of the world around us, an understanding whose meaning and utility is not yet known. I love that I am a tiny part of something much, much bigger than me.
What advice do you have for people just getting into citizen science?
I’d say find a citizen science project that really excites you and matches your interests. For me, I studied plant taxonomy and forest ecology in graduate school as part of climate change studies and it’s fun to return to this work as a volunteer citizen scientist, just for fun.
It’s especially exciting because my paid work is with the GO Mosquito Habitat Mapper, so I am interested in seeing how my hobby citizen science work (Land Cover citizen science) can help us understand patterns in the mosquito data.
What do you do for fun?
I live in the mountains and like to kayak, hike and cross-country ski. I’m always identifying plants when I walk. I have a mandolin and banjolin, and like to play music with friends. I used to foster rescue dogs, but I wanted to adopt too many of them, it just wasn’t sustainable! We live with our “failed foster” dog, Harrold a massive St. Bernard.
What inspires you?
Volunteers who work to make the world a better place. Every one of them. That includes luminaries such as Jane Goodall, the volunteer firefighters in my mountain district, and the citizen scientists and professional scientists working with them around the world.
Any favorite quote(s) that you would like to share?
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
― The Dalai Lama