Making a Powerful Connection: the Health of the Public and the National Information Infrastructure. 6.9 Scenario 9: Multimedia Data Transfer Supports Long-Distance Entomology


A university-based entomologist is consulting for the state public health department. She is in her office at the university reviewing a multi-media message from a local public health department at the other end of the state. An insect not included in the on-line database of insects in the region has been discovered in a residential area. The text portion of the message describes the environment in which the insect was found and poses questions about its direct effect on humans and animals and its potential role as a disease vector. The image portion of the message includes high resolution digital pictures of the insect.

After consulting on-line reference sources, including one which maps the usual geographic distribution of this insect, the entomologist replies electronically to the local health department that the insect causes only minor irritation to humans and animals, sending a copy of her message and the incoming information to all local health departments in the region. She also uses the information in the message and additional data from her on-line references to update the regional entomological database. A consultation that once entailed travel or time-consuming and painstaking shipment of specimens has been completed in a matter of minutes.

The entomologist is not finished, however. Although relatively harmless to people and animals, this insect can severely damage crops important to the state's economy. The state was thought to be outside its geographic range. The entomologist attaches these comments and forwards her message to the state agricultural department and to entomology colleagues at universities in the region.