Define the problem you are seeking to solve:
The two main global issues regarding mosquitos are that first, mosquitos are vectors for viruses and disease. The second issue is that mosquitos are a nuisance and have a negative impact on people and their wellbeing. The objective of this study is to find an effective way to reduce the urban and invading mosquito populations in Newcastle.
Describe your big idea:
Mosquito trapping is not a new concept; however, we are using a specific means of attraction (frequencies) and a more technologically advanced, self-powered solar mosquito trap in order to strategically reduce the male population of mosquitos, and by extension over time the larger populations. Whilst we believe our solution is scalable globally, our initial approach will be to build and demonstrate a minimum viable product using Lean Start-up principles, with an initial, specific focus on reducing the mosquito population around the freshwater bodies at Callaghan campus, Newcastle.
Describe and illustrate your proposed solution:
By using sound frequencies as a mosquito attractor, we use a minimally invasive, non-chemical solution for population control to not cause any unbalance in the local ecosystems. By reducing the population, the incidence of nuisance and opportunity for vectors reduces considerably. Due to the nature of the technically complex matching of mosquitos and frequencies seasonally, we will initially focus on institutions and larger companies or agricultural business as our customers.
Our plan is to map out the prevalence and risk factors of the various species of mosquitos in Newcastle, so we can narrow our initial target species. From prior research we know that certain male (and occasionally female) mosquitos are attracted to specific sound frequencies as part of their mating behaviors. Our first step will be in identifying the specific local species and their frequencies, qualifying this information and then measuring its effectiveness as an attractor.
Next we will design a prototype trap that can project these various frequencies (depending on downloaded sound bite), so as to test the most effective design, as well as the various other elements such as the power source (solar), the energy storage for twilight-night-morning use (battery), as well as the internal electric coils used to kill the trapped mosquitoes (coiled around the upper element to minimize escape), or else an internal fan to assist in capture per alternative options on the market. These will of course change with prototyping and the input of a sound engineer but allows us to create a low-cost, potentially scalable trap with a novel use of several currently existing technologies. It would be considered potentially scalable despite its tailored focus, because the trap itself would be a set design with greater potential for the downloading of other frequencies to tailor fit to other species and regions. We would be essentially providing a fit-for-purpose solution to a number of very different customer/target markets, but all based on the same operating principles.
Lastly, we will consult with various geographical and ecological experts as to the optimal position of these traps around shrubbery and the local environment to maximise our capture rate. This will include mapping out the breeding seasons, various attractors such as mulching areas as well as temperatures that affect mosquito frequencies. One such idea is to produce a mapping application (app.) to better inform such strategies and to predict unseasonable or increased breeding potential. This app. might even be multi-purpose as a community warning system tracking king-tides, water temperatures, and humidity levels perfect for mosquito breeding, with an opportunity for trap owners to report on unseasonal captures.
What is the core foundation of your research or solution:
Our idea of improving trapping techniques is based on the specificity of sound frequencies and suggests creating a more effective and sustainable way of attracting mosquitos. Currently the most effective attractor is a combination of carbon dioxide and specific lactic acids, however, we do not believe this to be sustainable or self-sustaining, thus our focus on an alternative attractor (McMniman, Corfas, Matthews, Ritchie, & Vosshall, 2014).
We did not pursue solutions using chemical or biological avenues because we did not have the technical expertise in these areas (Peter, Van den Bossche, Penzhorn & Sharp, 2005). Chemical solutions, for example have a long track record of inexpert use producing insecticide resistance in some species, as well as having environmental impact directly on other species and indirectly on the larger ecosystem (Johnson, Rohde, Zeak, Staunton, Prachar &Ritchie, 2018; Peter et al, 2005). Biological solutions such as genetic manipulation often ends up prohibitively expensive and its widespread and continued application is reliant on being able to sustain these changes and apply them over the many species of mosquito (Peter et al, 2005). Applying these solutions on a larger or global scale wherein transport, knowledge, and expert handling is required becomes difficult and expensive. We recognise that the female mosquito is the main vector for disease and the key contributor to the pest status. This is because the female seeks warm blood in order to provide the necessary protein for reproduction (Webb &Russell, 2009). The reason our focus is on male mosquitos is that early on in our study we found a behavioral difference between the males and their female counterpart. The male mosquitos exhibit certain behaviors such as ‘swarming’ when they sense the vibrating frequencies produced by females (Belton, 1994).
Additionally, we recognize that mosquitos are an important part of various ecosystems, feeding some species of birds, bats, amphibians, fish and macroinvertebrates (Webb &Russell, 2009), as well as being a competitor for resources with other insect species such as midges. Shelomi Matan (2017) suggests that eliminating one competitor could cause a strong and sudden growth in another. Our studies show that there are 23 species of mosquitos identified in the Newcastle area; 9 species are not known pests, are rare and/or have minimal research identifying them as either pest or vectors (Webb &Russell, 2009; “Mosquitos of Australia”, 2010). Of the 14 left, we narrow down the species to those found in permanent and semi- permanent freshwater environments (Eco Logical Australia, 2012). Refer Appendix 1 for specific species. Though it should be noted that there are species not born local to the area such as saltmarsh mosquitos that can travel up to 20km and have been reported present in the areas (“Mosquitos of Australia”, 2010).
Johnson et al (2018) reported on a comparison between the current competing technology on the market, the ‘gold standard’ in traps using mosquito frequencies as an attractor, Bioagents Sentinel (BGS), and two non-powered Gravid Aedes Traps (GAT), one of which used a frequencies as its lure (Sound-GAT). They found that in 1 in 3 situations the S-GAT outperformed the BGS, though BGS outperformed both GAT’s by a large margin in the 2 other situations. Johnson et al (2018) was able to produce their trap at $24.59 USD, as compared to BGS’s $197 USD. Similarly, Balestrino, Lyadloo, Elhee, Bheecarry, Campedelli, Carrieri and Bellini (2016) created another successful S-GAT system that was battery powered but following a different design that they went on to compare with that of the BGS. Please note here that our trap will differ by using the newer printable or FTO based solar, and a larger variety of interchangeable frequencies and sound pressure.
Further research is needed about best practice sound frequencies transmission, such as Kahn & Offenhouser’s (1949) suggestion that higher sound pressures (dB) despite being the right frequencies are more likely to act as a deterrent or have no effect at all. Similarly, Riordan’s (1959; Arthur et al, 2014) suggestion that sound fluctuations are necessary in the transmission as continuous single tone transmission aren’t as effective, though the modulations still must be within a specific range. Finally, Balestrino et al (2016) suggest dark coloured traps are necessary for optimum attraction and ‘Mosquito Male Trapping Methods’ (2015) has a list of requirements traps need to meet to be optimally efficient.
While males only live 2-3 days, they can breed multiple times within that period, so unless we design a trap that has very high efficiency, we risk having next to no impact on the larger population (Webb &Russell, 2009; Belton, 1994).
Describe your level of Technological Readiness level or Research Literature level:
The core research team is made up of three Business, Commerce, and Developmental Studies Bachelor students. One of our members includes the President and founder of the Ideas and Network Synergy club (INS). INS is a club that is interested in community development through innovation. Our Team has also found a wide network of experienced and technically educated Doctors’ and Professors and community members who have volunteered their expertise.
Our network- Expert Advisors:
- Dr Margaret Platell – Marine biologist – freshwater, estuaries.
- Dr Paul Hodge – earth, environmental, and geography.
- Dr Courtney Malloy – Business.
- Mr Frank Sammut – Central Coast Industry Connect.
- Mr Nigel Laurence – Product commercialization, R&D industry expert.
- Associate Professor Nigel Beebe – CSIRO mosquito expert.
Describe the top three critical hypotheses you want to explore:
Below is our proposed 3 stage plan to produce and test our trap with special attention on the research focused stage 1.
Stage 1: Qualifying our research by testing frequencies attractiveness. As mentioned in section 3 the first stage will be qualifying the research in section 4. We will be repeating each of these experimental processes for each species identified.
H1: Significant strong positive attraction to species relevant male attraction frequency (Hz) H0: Little to no effect using specific frequencies (Hz) to attract male mosquitos.
H1: Sound pressure (dB) has significant effect on frequency (Hz) attractiveness H0: Sound pressure (dB) has no effect on frequency (Hz) attractiveness
We will include a positive and negative control experiment for each experiment type. Additionally, Arthur, Emr, Wyttenbach and Hoy, (2014) also reported extensively on the procedural requirement for laboratory control when using frequencies as an attractor.
If these experiments confirm our hypotheses and are replicable in a field setting, we will continue to the following stages, as described in section 3.
Stage 2: Prototyping an effective application of this research We will be initiating low-cost work on a minimum prototype using existing scientific knowledge and existing literature throughout the 1st phase, and if successful, will be adapted for stage 2 development.
Stage 3: Strategic application and observation (measurement of impact)
Describe how you would use funding to progress your hypotheses:
The essential outcomes for stage 1 would include qualifying known research and testing the effectiveness of certain frequencies in inducing swarming behaviors in male mosquitos. Stage two would be dedicated to creating an effective self-sustained mosquito trap with these frequencies being projected effectively.
Our essential costs for the initial phases would include experiment equipment such as audio and testing equipment, experimental needs such as artificial environments, containers, etc., and various trapping paraphernalia. Additionally, there is the possible costs behind contracting a sound engineer for stages 1 and 2, as well as any space rental needs or university resources.
If we are successful in phase 1, we will also place funding toward trap development and prototyping, bearing in mind that the university offers free and low-cost 3D printing. Further deployment, testing, analysis and verification may require further funding down the track, however initial research is our focus.
Why your idea is an unconventional or creative approach to the problem:
Our team is using a tested yet unconventional means of trapping mosquitos. We intend to use sound waves to attract and trap male mosquitos specific to the Newcastle area. Additionally, through technological advancements, such as third-generation solar panels with lithium battery storage we can create a self-sustaining solar powered unit. The tailoring of our product to the specific species of mosquitoes and our technologically resourceful and ecologically focused product will be our main point of difference.
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