About This ProjectThe Asian Tiger Mosquito transmits human disease viruses, such as Dengue and Chikungunya, and is an invasive species living on all continents except Antarctica. Despite being native to the tropics, this species has invaded temperate regions with extreme cold temperatures. How did they do that? My goal is to identify genes underlying adaptations to cold that can be manipulated to control mosquito populations involved in disease transmission.
Ask the ScientistsJoin The Discussion
What is the context of this research?
The Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus) is responsible for several Chikungunya virus epidemics around the world and other viral disease outbreaks. Although historically restricted to tropical SE Asia, it has spread globally into temperate regions where winters can be harsh.
Several fascinating studies have identified possible physiological tricks that A. albopictus may use to survive the winter. However, the genetic changes that are involved in adaptation to winter conditions have not been identified.
I plan to circumvent previous challenges by coupling a new approach called exome-capture with DNA next-generation sequencing technologies to compare DNA sequence from many tropical and temperate mosquitoes.
What is the significance of this project?
Vaccines are not available for Dengue and Chikungunya fever, so targeting the mosquitoes that transmit these viruses remains the best way to control disease transmission. In our global society, it is only a matter of time before these viruses are moved from places where they are circulating, like the Caribbean, East Africa, or SE Asia, into temperate regions where the Asian Tiger mosquito is now established. It is critical that we develop new technologies to control mosquito populations.
With your help, I will generate the largest DNA sequence dataset available for the Asian Tiger mosquito. The exome-capture system and sequence data will also provide a foundation for developing additional genetic tools for monitoring invasive populations and novel control technologies.
What are the goals of the project?
- Develop exome-capture molecular biology tools
- Construct next-generation sequencing libraries
- Sequence samples of tropical (10) and temperate (40) mosquitoes (samples already available)
- Use population genetic methods to identify genes under natural selection in temperate populations
- Publish open access paper
DNA sequences can tell us alot, and they are relatively easy to collect thanks to modern technological advancements. Very few DNA sequences have been collected for A. albopictus (the Asian Tiger Mosquito), so we know very little about the genetics of this species. Funding this DNA sequence analysis project will generate a massive database of sequences that can teach us about adaptation to temperate climates and provide a publicly available community resource for future studies.
Meet the Team
Team BioMy interest in mosquitoes began when I took a job right out of college as a research assistant in a lab studying mosquitoes. The combination of fascinating biology and implications for human health hooked me immediately. I was captivated by the idea that complex evolutionary and ecological dynamics in a non-human species could have real and immediate effects on transmission of human disease. I went to graduate school to learn the skills to address questions about the biology underlying disease transmission by mosquitoes.
My PhD research focused on the evolution of the Anopheles mosquitoes that transmit human malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. Now as a postdoc, I am excited to return to studying Aedes albopictus. It was this system that fascinated me to begin with as a young research assistant!!
When I am not focused on mosquitoes, I love to spend time with my beautiful wife and daughter. I also love to play music. All kinds. Guitar is my main instrument.
I'm currently an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow in the Nielsen lab at UC Berkeley. I've been studying mosquitoes since 2003. I have conducted field-based studies, laboratory or semi-field ecological studies, as well as computational studies. Among other things, I'm interested in how mosquitoes adapt to their environment and how these eco-evolutionary dynamics can impact disease transmission.
My PhD research focused on short and longterm evolutionary dynamics in the Anopheles mosquitoes that transmit malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. These mosquitoes exist as a series of species and subspecies that sometimes hybridize. I used population genetic approaches to show that these groups experience distinct natural selection regimes and have a complex history of speciation and population size changes.
I hope to bring the tools and expertise I've acquired to bear on questions about adaptation in the Asian Tiger mosquito.
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