Rising Temperatures Affect the Number of Mosquitoes in the Arctic

Lauren Culler, Ph.D., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Dickey Center Arctic Fellow and Outreach Coordinator

Climate change is causing temperatures to rise in the Arctic and Lauren is studying how these changes in temperature affect mosquito emergence from freshwater ponds.

During the summers of 2011 and 2012, Lauren Culler counted the number of mosquitoes in several ponds near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, every few days and measured how many mosquitoes emerged from each pond. (See picture of individually wrapper mosquitoes.) She also used lab studies at Kangerlussuaq International Science Support to measure how temperature affects the number of days it takes a mosquito larva to grow into an adult.

So far, she has leaned that warmer temperatures are likely to increase the number of mosquitoes that emerge because the larvae grow much faster when it's warmer and thus spend fewer days exposed to predators. She has also discovered that the amount of rainfall in the spring is a crucial factor because very dry weather leads to the death of mosquito larvae as their habitat dries.

Mosquitoes are a concern to Arctic residents and wildlife because, for one, they endlessly harass residents and potentially restrict an already limited tourism season. Secondly, they can cause health declines in caribou, which are an important subsistence resource for many Greenlanders. Dr. Culler completed her Ph.D. in 2013 but she is still engaged with research and outreach in Greenland as a postdoctoral researcher at Dartmouth's Institute of Arctic Studies.

YouTube: Lauren Culler talks about the dynamics of climate change