Aya Obara

MPH program, Environmental Health

Mosquito control program in Massachusetts


Describe the work you’re doing for your practicum.

As a an intern with East Middlesex Mosquito Control Program (EMMCP), I’m working with three municipalities to monitor the growth of mosquito larvae in above ground storm water collection structures. The outcomes will be presented to local conservation administrators, and will indicate whether more rigorous regulation of these structures is needed to prevent the development of vectors of diseases such as Eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile Virus.

What are the greatest challenges and successes you’ve had so far?

Weather for both! We have had a steady amount of rain this summer, which is the primary factor driving this project. However, when it doesn’t rain, it adversely affects our timeline for completing this project.

What skills have you been able to apply?

Project coordination, goal-setting, time management, reporting and maintaining accurate records, some previous knowledge of water resource management and urban environmental health.

What experience have you been able to gain?

Mosquito biology knowledge, field collection and analytic methods for mosquito control, inspecting efficacy details of water collection/drainage structures. I’m enjoying the self-direction I have in this project, as my EMMCP supervisors have been very responsive and extremely knowledgeable and helpful in guiding my progress so we can attain a meaningful final report.

What have you found to be helpful in terms of making the most of your practicum experience?

Being a self-starter and being mindful of time have been the most integral lessons in my experience. From finding this project to openly communicating with EMMCP about my own interests to being flexible about weather-permitting situations have been key.

What tips can you offer to practicum students regarding the practicum?

Talk with your professors about your interests in public health and they may be the gateway in finding your ideal practicum project.

How did you find your practicum placement?

From my well-connected and wonderfully attentive academic adviser, professor, and mentor.

Has your practicum met your expectations? Do you think your practicum will inform the next steps in your public health career?

The ability to combine my interests and background in biology, public health, and environmental/water management all in one project has been great. This practicum has increased my interest in pursuing further studies in biology, public health entomology, and water resource management within the realm of environmental health.

My involvement with this project is comforting proof that meaningful public health-related work exists while being outdoors. I will be searching for similar field work-based full-time experiences after I graduate in the fall. I also want to incorporate more time directly with the community and/or pursuing outreach, in my professional career.