Strides into West Nile Research


Evan Boucher

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

University of North Dakota


The Department of Technology at the University of North Dakota does not sit idle during summer vacation. This July, the College of Business and Public Administration’s Department of Technology made strides into West Nile research by designing a new power apparatus for Turtle Mountain Community College’s mosquito traps. The department’s manufacturing lab in Starcher Hall was home to a collaborative effort involving three students from Turtle Mountain, in addition to students and faculty from UND’s Department of Technology.

“What Turtle Mountain approached us with was a problem they had encountered with their system for collecting mosquitoes, said Assistant Professor Alex Johnson. “Their current system was only providing battery power for one night of operation, and they wanted to see if we could create a system that would have a battery backup and a solar panel of a size that would give them longer periods of use.”

He continued, “With faculty and students from the Department of Technology collaborating with Dr. Scott Hanson, the TCUP director and chairman of the Department of Math and Science at Turtle Mountain Community College, and some of his students, we have developed a new system, and this is our prototype. We’re in the process of putting together the final one right now.”

This system created through the collaborative effort between TMCC and UND is designed to collect a greater number of mosquito samples by making trapping less labor-intensive. Having a larger number of mosquito samples will enable TMCC to do additional research on the West Nile Virus. The virus is reputed to have serious health effects, particularly on elderly and young individuals.

The Department of Technology at UND is assisting TMCC with designing mosquito traps that rely on sustainable power, rather than on batteries alone, to power mosquito collection operations. With the new retrofitted traps, it is unlikely that the traps will run out of power in fewer than six days. Even under overcast conditions, the mosquito traps are able to acquire enough charge, as the sun’s energy continues to flow through the clouds. The power sources will likely yield a substantial increase in mosquito samples, since the traps can be left unattended for up to a week rather than needing to have the battery recharged daily.

Funding for the TMCC project comes from the National Science Foundation. The grant supports many aspects of science education and research at TMCC, including the West Nile research.