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National grant supports research on mosquitoes

Biological Sciences Distinguished Professor Steven Juliano has received a $426,500 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to continue three decades of research on ecology of larvae of North American mosquitoes that transmit diseases.

The funding advances Juliano’s research of aquatic environments in which mosquitos lay eggs. He is targeting mosquitos drawn to water in man-made containers, such as bird baths, old tires, and cemetery vases.

Juliano and a team of students will focus on the species that carry diseases, such as West Nile and La Crosse encephalitis. The work involves manipulating habitats ranging in size from a tea cup to a rain barrel.

“The NIH is interested in getting a better idea of the container sizes where certain mosquitos grow to maturity, giving us a better ability to target those containers,” Juliano said.

He hopes the study will help health officials understand what kinds of containers provide the best sites for immature, disease-transmitting mosquitos. “If a main concern becomes West Nile, then officials can target containers of a certain size, with a certain level of water permanence, to help limit mosquito populations.”