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Emily Cook

Emily Cook

The University of Georgia
College of Veterinary Medicine
Class of 2020

Research Interests

Microclimate and larval density impact mosquito population dynamics and arbovirus transmission potential

Emily Cook, Courtney Murdock, Carl Hintz

Department of Infectious Diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine (Cook, Murdock), Odum School of Ecology
(Murdock), University of Georgia, Athens, GA; Department of Mathematics, North Carolina State University (Hintz), Raleigh, NC

Mosquitoes are small, ectothermic organisms, so their development and population dynamics are highly dependent on abiotic factors such as temperature and relative humidity. Variation in land use across an urban landscape causes fine-scale variation in the microclimate that mosquito larvae experience. Additionally, biotic factors such as population density drive ecological change primarily on a fine-scale level. This experiment aimed to determine how both these abiotic and biotic factors affect mosquito traits in the larval and adult stages important to pathogen transmission potential. Nine field sites were selected and classified as urban (3), suburban (3), or rural (3), based on impervious surface cover. Three clusters of 4 bell jars were evenly interspersed across each site and filled with leaf infusion mixture. In each cluster, one jar contained a data logger to record the temperature of the larval environment, while the remaining three jars were seeded with either a low (n=30), medium (n=60), or high density (n=120) of first instar Aedes albopictus larvae. Sites were visited daily to collect emerging adults. Number of adults emerging, larval development rates, and mosquito body size were used to infer how land use and density impact mosquito population dynamics and arbovirus transmission potential. Preliminary data indicate that higher larval density was associated with lower larval survival and body size at all sites. Urban sites produced the fastest larval development, but the lowest overall larval survival and body size. This demonstrates that even small-scale biotic or abiotic alterations in the larval environment can have significant implications for adult mosquito populations and the pathogens they transmit.

Research Grant: Population Biology of Infectious Diseases REU Program, Odum School of Ecology; Department of Infectious Diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Student Support: NIH Office of Research Infrastructure Programs, Grant Number 2T35OD010433-11

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