Beyond “the Mosquito People”: The Challenges of Engaging Community for Environmental Justice in Infested Urban Spaces

  • Dawn Biehler
  • Joel Baker
  • John-Henry Pitas
  • Yinka Bode-George
  • Rebecca Jordan
  • Amanda E. Sorensen
  • Sacoby Wilson
  • Heather Goodman
  • Megan Saunders
  • Danielle Bodner
  • Paul T. Leisnham
  • Shannon LaDeau


In west Baltimore, Maryland, USA, disinvestment in housing and infrastructure has left an ecological legacy of mosquito infestation, along with many other social and environmental hazards. Ecological sampling techniques and resident narratives together tell a rich story about how racist housing and planning policies led to landscapes dominated by abandoned buildings, vacant lots, and sanitation problems, which in turn sustain invasive Aedes albopictus mosquitoes that bite and can transmit disease. However, the study’s focus on the seemingly narrow topic of mosquito control presented challenges for resident engagement and participation in a neighborhood troubled by broader issues of environmental and social injustice.



This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Coupled Natural Human Systems Program (lead PI, LaDeau; DEB 1211797). Field and data logistics were further supported by the Baltimore Ecosystem Study (NSF-LTER DEB 1027188). Thanks especially to the residents of west and southwest Baltimore who have told us their stories.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dawn Biehler
    • 1
  • Joel Baker
    • 1
  • John-Henry Pitas
    • 1
  • Yinka Bode-George
    • 2
  • Rebecca Jordan
    • 3
  • Amanda E. Sorensen
    • 4
  • Sacoby Wilson
    • 5
  • Heather Goodman
    • 6
  • Megan Saunders
    • 7
  • Danielle Bodner
    • 7
  • Paul T. Leisnham
    • 7
  • Shannon LaDeau
    • 8
  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental SystemsUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore CountryBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.CommonHealth ActionWashington, DCUSA
  3. 3.Department of Human EcologyRutgers UniversityBrunswickUSA
  4. 4.School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA
  5. 5.Applied Environmental Health, University of Maryland College ParkCollege ParkUSA
  6. 6.Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Center for Urban Environmental Research and EducationBaltimoreUSA
  7. 7.Department of Environmental Science and TechnologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  8. 8.Cary Institute of Ecosystem StudiesMillbrookUSA

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