AMES, Iowa – The story begins in 2080, and the American Museum of Natural History – forced to move from New York to Des Moines due to climate change – has an exhibit on the history and extermination of mosquitoes.
The fictional portrayal of a world without mosquitoes may sound appealing to anyone who has fallen victim to the summer plague, but the comic strip “Mosquitoes SUCK!” (both literally – they suck, instead of bite – and some may argue figuratively) tells the story of the devastation and disruption of the ecosystem if the species were wiped out.
âEveryone has the same reaction to mosquitoes because they’re so annoying,â said Katherine Richardson Bruna, one of the comic book authors and professor at the School of Education at Iowa State University. “But we don’t want to end up with this dystopian future where mosquitoes no longer exist.”
The comic, illustrated by a team led by Marvel artist Bob Hall, was inspired by Mosquitoes & Me Summer Camp, a two-week camp for elementary school students that is part of the ISU Urban Ecosystem Project. , which focuses on the study of mosquitoes as a means of arousing students’ curiosity and interest in science. The book features three stories as well as posters and short essays developed from the camp’s program on mosquito biology and ecology, disease transmission, and community control efforts.
Richardson Bruna says research has shown science comics help students learn more effectively, because of the way they interact with text and images. She and co-authors Sara Erickson, program coordinator for the UIS Urban Ecosystem Project; and Lyric Bartholomay, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, created the comic with the aim of teaching readers of all ages how mosquitoes relate to environmental and sustainability issues, as well as inspiring the interest of young readers in science.
âThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has highlighted the need for more entomologists to study insects and disease transmission,â said Richardson Bruna. “Our hope is that the comic will spark an interest in mosquitoes and a wider interest in entomology to meet some of these societal and environmental needs.”
Students create their own comic book stories
This has already inspired students to develop characters and content for their own comic book stories. As part of a grant from the National Institutes of Health that supported the comic, Richardson Bruna, Erickson, and Bartholomay started the Mosquitoes & Me comic book project.
The students, who had previously attended the summer camp, were invited to be part of the after-school program. They not only learned what makes a great comic book, but they also had the opportunity to apply what they learned at camp. Their stories and the creative process are on display at the Student Innovation Center on campus. And one of the posters for “Mosquitoes Suck!” presents images based on student illustrations.
Richardson Bruna says they are providing copies of the comic to teachers in the state of Iowa, educators at ISU Extension and Outreach, and the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery. They have also received applications from the World Food Prize Foundation, international partners in Ecuador and Bolivia, the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, among others. To request more information, contact: [email protected]