Peabody Fellows Biodiversity and Human Health Program
Fellows examining arthropods
Fellows examining tick drag results with Leonard Munstermann
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Climate Change and Patterns of Vector-Borne Disease: Development of Translational Science Curricula (2012-16)

Science Education Partnership Award



National Center for Research Resources and Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives

National Institutes of Health


The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History has received its third Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Institutes of Health. SEPA projects are designed to immerse students in science, increase science literacy and encourage biomedical research careers. This new initiative is led by Leonard Munstermann, Senior Research Scientist in the Yale School of Public Health and Curator of Entomology at the Yale Peabody Museum.


The current SEPA project, which will run from 2011 through 2016, aims to improve communication between research scientists and the general public through development of middle and high school curriculum resources and via museum exhibits and public forums. Teachers, museum educators and research scientists will cooperate in this endeavor, centered at Peabody Museum and drawing on the research resources of the Yale School of Medicine (clinical and public health). Three infectious, vector-borne diseases—malaria, leishmaniasis, and dengue—will be used as models (1) to illustrate impact of climate on changes in epidemiological patterns and (2) to provide teachers with engaging and relevant new ways to address their required state and national science standards.


Six specific aims will be achieved:


1. Innovative, standards-based science curricula will be developed that are based on active and current research in university laboratories. This will be accomplished with a consultation team of teachers, museum educators and a research advisory board.


2. Teacher capacity will be enhanced by use of museum collections in making the link between climate and insect-borne disease ecology. Summer teacher training institutes will expose educators to the curricula and associated museum and laboratory resources.


3. Students (grades 7-12) will strengthen investigative science skills through the use of museum specimens and laboratory tools, inquiry-based experiments, and field trips to biomedical research facilities.


4. The new curricula will be disseminated first in selected sites in Connecticut and then at education centers in Texas, Oregon, and California. These classroom resources will be marketed nationally by the Peabody Museum publications office, and available on the museum website.


5. Annual family events that highlight the infectious disease theme will be sponsored at the Peabody Museum and participating schools; a traveling kiosk exhibit will be designed that explores the interplay between human travel patterns, climate cycles and insect-borne infectious disease risks.


6. The model of science partnerships developed through this project will be made available for use by other informal science institutions, research institutions and public schools; this will be disseminated via the Peabody Museum website, by contacts with local schools, and at regional and national conferences.


Peabody Fellows Biodiversity and Human Health Program History


The Peabody Fellows Biodiversity and Human Health Program began in 1997 as a science literacy initiative for elementary school teachers, students and their families. It aims to educate and excite them about the diversity of the natural world with a positive attitude towards scientific inquiry, and to promote the incorporation of science and scientific inquiry methods in the classroom. Originally funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and subsequently funded by two Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the program is currently supported through a third SEPA (2011–2016) from the NIH. The Peabody Fellows Biodiversity and Human Health Program works closely with selected teachers on science curriculum projects aligned with state and national science standards. The program has evolved into a respected resource for professional development throughout Connecticut that helps teachers show children new ways to view their environment, strengthen their observational and investigative skills, and instill a respect for biodiversity. It provides teachers with access to the educational resources of the Yale Peabody Museum to enhance the learning experience in their classrooms.


Biodiversity and Vector-borne Disease: Lyme Disease and West Nile Virus (2005-2011 R25 RR020818)


The previous NIH–SEPA grant, administered through the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), was awarded to Principal Investigator Leonard Munstermann, senior research scientist in the School of Public Health at the Yale University School of Medicine and Curator of Entomology at the Yale Peabody Museum. Using research on Lyme disease and West Nile virus, this project has created a curriculum module to teach students in grades 5 to 10 about biodiversity and vector-borne disease, including the differences in transmission, detection, and treatment of viral and bacterial diseases.


Program Objectives


  • To build teacher capacity for bringing research in biodiversity and disease ecology into grade 5 through 10 classrooms in an engaging, inquiry-based style.
  • To develop innovative standards-based science curriculum resources that use museum collections to investigate biodiversity and vector-borne disease ecology.
  • To increase middle school students’ understanding and practical application of science process skills in the context of investigating Lyme disease and West Nile virus.
  • To increase public understanding of the nature of biomedical sciences and scientific research in the context of vector-borne diseases.


Curriculum Development Phase


A competitively selected group of curriculum-writing Fellows participated in two spring workshops in 2006. These were held at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, one of the original research sites for Lyme disease in the 1970s and now an important location for investigating and monitoring West Nile virus. They also attended a 2-week summer institute at the Museum. This core of Fellows, along with museum educators, developed and piloted a science curriculum module on Lyme and West Nile in coordination with the loan of the Museum's BioAction Kit, which contains scientific instruments, specimens and supplies for classroom teaching. Over the subsequent years of the grant, this module was refined through further field testing, disseminated to other chosen school districts across the country, and made available for national release in 2010.


Click here for the curriculum and supporting documents.


National Dissemination Phase


The program disseminated its completed resources through the following national sites:


  • Alabama Math, Science, Technology Initiative (AMSTI) and Alabama Science in Motion (ASIM), Birmingham, AL
  • Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
  • Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater, MA
  • Coastal Carolina University, Georgetown, SC
  • University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley, CA
  • Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA
  • University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, NE
  • Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, Portland, OR
  • Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
  • University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
  • University of Wisconsin Arboretum, Madison, WI


Exhibition Development Phase


Two exhibitions were developed through this project.  Each had an in-house and a traveling version. Click on the exhibit titles for the companion websites.


Solving the Puzzle: Lyme Disease, West Nile Virus & You.  Emerging infectious diseases are regularly in the news. Humans are changing environments in ways that bring people into closer contact with organisms (vectors) that transmit disease from one species to another. This exhibit takes a closer look at some of these changes, such as reforestation and the expansion of suburbs into forested areas. Lyme disease and West Nile virus are used as models for exploring the interplay between environmental change, biodiversity and vector-borne disease.  The exhibit highlights information on the puzzle that comprises the transmission, detection, and treatment of these diseases. It addresses key components of the pathogens, vectors and hosts for each disease, including the following:


  • Essential information about the distinctive tick and mosquito life cycles
  • Where and how humans interact with these cycles
  • An examination of common and differing elements of these diseases
  • The differences between bacterial (Lyme) and viral (West Nile) pathogens
  • How our changing environment is increasing the incidence of both diseases


Invasion of the Bloodsuckers: Bedbugs and Beyond!  How do you identify bedbugs, lice, mosquitoes, fleas and other bloodsucking arthropods? Media headlines are full of stories about these animals and this exhibit will give visitors the chance to meet these common human parasites. We often view these organisms as pests, as spreaders of frightening diseases, as invaders. Most bites, although irritating, are harmless, but others that are deadly may go unnoticed. Yet we do not always fully appreciate the diversity of these blood-feeding organisms and their relationship to humans. Each has a unique repertoire of adaptations and a distinct lifestyle that have evolved in close association with a host. All blood feeders need one essential element to live—blood. This exhibit focuses on six blood-feeding species: the bedbug, flea, head louse, pubic louse, mosquito and tick. It aims to provide a better understanding of each of these blood-feeding species by answering these questions:


  • What does the blood feeder look like?
  • How does it get blood and how did that behavior originate?
  • How does it use the blood it feeds on?
  • How do we identify this blood feeder from among the many harmless arthropods?  
  • How can we protect ourselves from this blood feeder?


SEPA Scientific Advisory Council


Theodore G. Andreadis, PhD
Chief Medical Entomologist, Department Head
Soil and Water Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station


Laurent Bonneau, PhD

Project Manager

Yale Center for Earth Observation

Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies


Richard Bucala, MD, PhD


Department of Internal Medicine

Yale University School of Medicine


Maria Diuk-Wasser
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
Yale School of Public Health

William Casey King, PhD

Executive Director

Yale Center for Analytical Sciences

 Yale School of Public Health


Dr. Peter Krause, MD

Senior Research Scientist

Yale School of Public Health


Choukri Ben Mamoun, PhD

Associate Professor

Department of Internal Medicine

Yale University School of Medicine


Diane McMahon-Pratt, PhD

Professor of Epidemiology

Yale School of Public Health


Leonard E. Munstermann, PhD
Senior Research Scientist
Yale School of Public Health

Robert Sherwin, MD


Yale Center for Clinical Investigation

Yale University School of Medicine


Kirby Stafford, PhD
Vice Director, Chief Scientist/State Entomologist
Department of Entomology
Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station


Paul Turner, PhD

Chair, Professor

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Yale University


Faculty, Staff and Contact Information


Leonard E. Munstermann, PhD

Principal Investigator

Senior Research Scientist, School of Public Health;

Curator of Entomology, Yale Peabody Museum


Laura Fawcett, Program Director

Beth Hines, Curriculum Specialist/Science Educator

Phone: (203) 432-8494


Peabody Fellows Biodiversity and Human Health Program

Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History

P.O. Box 208118

New Haven, CT 06520-8118