Tracking pest abatement
When the West Nile Virus began spreading across the western states three years ago, Ada County, Idaho, began an aggressive mosquito abatement program. Since then, county crews have been incorporating mapping and location technologies to help pest control efforts.
To reduce mosquito populations, Ada County field inspectors first locate standing water bodies that serve as mosquito breeding grounds and apply control agents if mosquito larva or pupa are found. When residents report adult mosquito swarms, the county dispatches misting trucks to eradicate the flying pests with spray treatments.
After a few seasons of marking up paper maps and then typing details of their activities into the county’s geospatial software, crews wanted to more easily map treatment areas, compare the effectiveness of various biological agents, quantify the program cost and automatically schedule follow-up inspections.
With assistance from Electronic Data Solutions of Jerome, Idaho, the county purchased hand-held geographic positioning system (GPS) devices from Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Trimble last year. The computers include a touch-screen display so field inspectors can view geographic information system (GIS) maps and complete reports.
Before inspectors leave for the field, they download inspection reports, water body maps and GIS layers from the county GIS into their hand-held computers. “If the inspectors are unfamiliar with an area, the mobile GIS devices help them navigate to the water bodies,” says Jacob Mundt, Ada County GIS mapping coordinator.
When inspectors find a new breeding site, they activate the GPS and walk around the area’s perimeter, generating a map of its location and extent. After testing the water for mosquito larva and pupa, the inspector uses a series of pull-down menus on the touch screen to record the results. If a treatment is warranted, notes are made about the type and amount of control agent used. Finally, the inspector records a date for the follow-up visit.
Back at the office, the updated breeding site maps and inspection reports are uploaded from the mobile devices into the county GIS, which is integrated with the county’s financial and work order management software. Program managers can pull details about the type and amount of control agent applications into the financial software to analyze treatment costs and to generate invoices, if appropriate. They also route the revisit dates from each inspection report to the work order management system to automate inspections. “The mobile GIS technology greatly streamlined our scheduling procedure and made our inspectors more efficient due to more accurate records and less paperwork,” Mundt says.
This season, each misting truck will carry a hand-held device identical to the ones used by field inspectors. The data collection program has been customized to allow the drivers to record when they activate and de-activate the misting apparatus. The unit collects location information, defining the perimeter of the area that has been sprayed.
As with the inspection data, the misting data will be uploaded into the county GIS each night when drivers return. “It will be extremely helpful for us to view the misting polygons on top of the master breeding site map in our GIS,” Mundt says. “If our adult mosquito swarms are reduced in the areas around the known breeding sites, we will know our water body treatments have successfully prevented larva and pupa from reaching the mature adult stage.”
Ada County also will analyze the type and amount of control agents used in the areas where adult mosquitoes still are prevalent. That information may help them determine which treatments are the most and least effective at controlling the larva and pupa forms. Because of efficiency improvements from the mobile GIS technology, the county is expanding its use to map and control noxious weeds and four-legged pests, such as gophers.