During my undergraduate career at the University of Southern Mississippi, I took a course in tropical ecology where I learned about the ecology of tropical rain forests. I studied abroad in Belize where I had a hands-on experience learning about the ecology in the tropics. While in Belize, I fell in love with the tropics and was amazed with everything there is to learn in these environments.
Upon returning, I joined Don Yee’s aquatic insect ecology laboratory as a research assistant. I assisted on a project funded by the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) where we sampled Mississippi for the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, which is known to vector viruses such as Zika.
After working with Dr. Yee for a year, I was accepted as a graduate student into his lab. My research interests lie in the field of mosquito ecology, specifically how the environment affects stoichiometry (i.e., carbon and nitrogen) within medically important mosquitoes. Since starting graduate school, I have continued sampling southern Mississippi for Aedes aegypti, and other species in containers. During the summer, I intern for the MSDH where I perform West Nile Virus surveillance in southern Mississippi. To further my knowledge of the identification of mosquito larvae and adults, I took a two-week training course on species-level identification of the mosquitoes of North America at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, Florida, where I was certified as a Mosquito Identification Specialist.
My experience and knowledge of field sampling techniques, mosquito ecology, and identification will be invaluable when sampling Puerto Rico to develop a comprehensive list of the mosquito species on the island. Knowing which species are present will be beneficial to public health and future research on mosquitoes. I am very excited about the opportunity to travel to Puerto Rico where I will be able to apply my skill set and broaden my knowledge within the tropics.