UND, NDSU researchers land funding to seek ways to map and forecast occurrences of West Nile Virus in North Dakota


David L. Dodds

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Engineering & Mines


North Dakota’s NASA EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) program recently awarded nearly $73,000 to the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State for a new project to map and forecast the occurrences of West Nile Virus in North Dakota.

UND was awarded almost $38,000 for the project, while NDSU’s portion will be nearly $35,000. An additional $4,000 was awarded to UND for travel related to the project. This is a joint effort between the state’s two research universities.

The principle investigators for the project are Assistant Professor Prakash Ranganathan and Associate Professor Naima Kaabouch, from UND’s Electrical Engineering Department, and Professor Mark Boetel, with NDSU’s Entomology Department.

This project will develop forecast and visual map models that predict when and where different species of mosquitos might test positive for West Nile Virus. The UND team is tasked with developing visualization models and integrating the state’s history related to WNV data sets, said Ranganathan.

Students from UND were hired in October and already are working on the project. A method of predicting outbreaks of West Nile virus in mosquitos will be another surveillance tool to help the North Dakota Department of Health communicate disease risk and assist local vector control agencies effectively allocate resources toward preventing transmission, said Laura Cronquist, West Nile virus surveillance coordinator from the state Division of Disease Control, part of the North Dakota Health Department.

The contribution from NDSU will be to use geographic information systems (GIS) technology to acquire and map remotely sensed data on environmental variables such as weather patterns, human demographics, land cover characteristics, physiography, and land-use practices, combined with spatial and temporal distribution data on the primary WNV mosquito vector species in North Dakota. The focus will be on Culex tarsalis and Aedes vexans, the primary vector species of WNV in the region, said Boetel.

The researchers expect to develop county-level WNV prediction data for North Dakota using statewide health data, ArboNET, U.S. Geological Survey, Centers for Disease Control and meteorological data from the North American Land Data Assimilation System from 2000 to 2015.