Monday, June 29, 2009

CDC Image Database

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) may seem an odd resource for historic images of buildings, but one finds all sorts of interesting things housed in its Public Health Information Library (PHIL). For example, the database includes images (photographs and a plan of the complex) of the Leprosarium in Carville, Louisiana. The interface also provides very detailed metadata:

"Photographed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on the Harvard University campus, by Harvard University, Dept. of Environmental Health and Safety entomologist/ environmental biologist, Dr. Gary Alpert, this image depicted a mature “Bald-faced” hornet, Dolichovespula maculata, nest, which had been built by its colony up under the cornice of a museum building, abutting the capital of a Corinthian column. Bald-faced hornets are common in both wooded and urban areas in New England. Queens start a new nest each spring after the weather warms up in late April or May.

D. maculata create large arboreal nests with a thin paper outer layer, and can be recognized by their black and white color markings, especially the white areas on their face. The queen finds loose bark, and other paper strips to start a small nest into which she places her eggs. She adds saliva to the paper bark and forms a smooth carton. When painted wood is used to make carton, you can see the color on the outside of the carton nest. These large wasps will sting when defending their nest, or when defending themselves against perceived harm. Stings from these insects can induce anaphylactic shock in susceptible individuals, and therefore, control of their populations need be left to professional control specialists. They are widespread across the United States. See PHIL 9814, for a close-up of a queen hornet, and 9816 for another image revealing structural details of an initial nest." [Image above photographed 2006 by Dr. Gary Alpert].

For those interested in diseases and pathogens associated with natural disasters such as hurricanes, the PHIL site is also an excellent resource.

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