By Peter Coates (co-investigator, University of Bristol)
The particular (and peculiar) paths down which our research takes us are often unpredictable. I experienced one of these moments of serendipity at our project team meeting in Greenwich last autumn. Project partner Jolyon Medlock, mosquito expert and Medical Entomologist with Public Health England, had brought along various textual artefacts. Among the items he spread out on a table were a poster about ‘The Mosquito Nuisance’ (with tips on how to ‘kill the wrigglers’); a list of ‘the known British mosquitoes’; a pamphlet entitled Principles and Practice of Mosquito Control; a circular on ‘the destruction of mosquito larvae in salt or brackish water’; and a photo of a man in dark glasses and a tweed jacket and waistcoat who looked like one of the more suspicious characters in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.
Today, 25th April, is World Malaria Day. This international observance day, led by the World Health Organisation, is an opportunity to recognise the global commitment to uniting around the common goal of a world free of malaria.
The overwhelming burden of malaria is felt in sub-Saharan Africa, which reports over 90% of annual malaria cases. The issue is particularly acute in this region because the tropical climate allows malaria-carrying mosquitoes to survive and transmit the disease throughout the year; there is very little, if any, respite from the ongoing cycle of transmission. Scientists, public health teams and communities are working hard to beat malaria here, and elsewhere in the tropics.
A first visit - there is always so much to take in. So many things to see, hear and smell, and so many questions.
We are excited to have started work in Bedford, our in-depth study area for urban wetlands. We will be focusing on Bedford's Priory Country Park and the adjacent Fenlake Meadows Local Nature Reserve, which are managed by Bedford Borough Council. These wetland sites will form part of the Bedford River Valley Park, a planned regeneration and wetland expansion project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will span 868 hectares to form a natural link between Bedford and the wider countryside.
We are delighted to announce that we will be working across the Somerset Levels as one of our three in-depth case study sites. Our focus will be the neighbouring sites of Shapwick Heath and Westhay Moor, which together with a number of surrounding wetlands form the Avalon Marshes, and are managed by Natural England and Somerset Wildlife Trust, respectively.