Fonseca Lab

Andrea is giving the Entomology Department Seminar!

9 February 2018 It’s not just Lyme disease: lessons from 10 years of tick surveillance in Monmouth County, NJ”

Seminar starts at 11am (come earlier for coffee and donuts!) in the 2nd floor classroom in Thompson Hall, Cook Campus (SEBS).

Rafael is giving the Entomology Department Seminar!

2 February 2018“Application of environmental DNA to survey for agricultural pests”

Seminar starts at 11am (come earlier for coffee and donuts!) in the 2nd floor classroom in Thompson Hall, Cook Campus (SEBS).

Dina is going to China next year!

Dina Fonseca will give an invited talk at the International Conference on Malaria and Related Haemosporidian Parasites of Wildlife in Beijing, China in November 2018! The conference is hosted by the Beijing Normal University and Beijing Zoo. The objective of the conference is to exchange research and knowledge, and promote international collaborations in the field of wildlife malaria.

Heads-up: NJMCA and AMCA meetings

UPDATE: Melvin has agreed to deliver the talk/poster (TBD) on the expansion of Aedes atlanticus in NJ at NJMCA (!)

Hi everyone! While the deadline for abstract submission is long gone (September 15, I think), if you are talking at AMCA and you are a student (!!) you can apply for an all-expenses paid trip to Kansas on a Kelly Label Travel award. The AMCA 2018 will be February 26-March 2, 2018, in Kansas City, MO. Brian and Dina are signed up but sadly neither is a registered student.

The NJMCA 2018 Annual Convention will be in Atlantic City, NJ (as per usual) on March 14-16. Deadline for NJMCA abstracts is Jan 5. Send the title, speaker and coauthors info as well as an abstract  (< 500 words) to Autumn Angelus, the program organizer. Click here for the Call for Papers Form. Andrea, Brian, Lisa, Dina will be attending. Please let Dina know if you want to attend. There are nice cash awards for great talks/posters by students.

Investigating the Ecology of Male Aedes polynesiensis in Tetiaroa to Improve Population Eradication using Wolbachia

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The atoll of Tetiaroa. Image is the property of The Brando resort.

It’s true, paradise does exist. And it is Tetiaroa. Tetiaroa is an atoll in the Windward group of the Society Islands in French Polynesia located 33 mi from Tahiti. The atoll has only 6 square kilometres (2 sq mi) of total surface area divided by 12 motus (islets), but it makes up for its modest size by encircling a truly world unique lagoon. The lagoon is approximately 7 kilometers wide and ranges in depth from only a few centimeters at the shore to 30 meters at its deepest point and is filled with clear, turquoise water and abundant marine life. The isolation and beauty of the atoll made it a top vacation spot for Tahitian royalty and in more recent times is known for having been purchased by and served as a primary residence for Marlon Brando. It is now home to The Brando, a luxury eco-resort. The allure of Tetiaroa attracted not only royalty but the mosquito Aedes polynesiensis, a vector of dengue, lymphatic filariasis and likely Zika virus, as well.

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View of the outer reef of Tetiaroa

Ae. polynesiensis is a semi-domestic species found only in the South Pacific with an extremely wide range of breeding places that includes tree holes, a wide range of artificial containers, crab holes, canoes, coconut shells and husks, of which there are plenty on Tetiaroa. In addition to their vector status, they can cause great nuisance to locals and vacationers alike, destroying a long-awaited honeymoon or relaxing retreat. So, if you want to formulate a plan to eradicate a pest to improve paradise while also undertaking an ambitious experiment that could change how we fight mosquitoes and the diseases they spread, there is no better setting than Tetiaroa.

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Aedes polynesiensis female

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Typical Ae. polynesiensis habitat on Tetiaroa

The project to eliminate Ae. polynesiensis from Tetiaroa is led by medical entomologist Hervé Bossin and his team at the Institut Louis Malardé in collaboration with the Tetiaroa Society, a non-profit research and conservation organization dedicated to understanding the wonders of Tetiaroa, and The Brando resort. The plan involves releasing large numbers of Wolbachia-infected male Ae. polynesiensis into the wild to reduce and eventually eradicate the species from the island. Wolbachia are a group of intra-cellular bacteria that live inside many insect species, including mosquitoes, and when a male mosquito infected with Wolbachia mates with a female not infected with Wolbachia, or infected with a different strain, the fertilized eggs fail to develop due to what is called cytoplasmic incompatibility. Hervé and his team have already released more than 1 million sterile male mosquitoes on the island starting in 2015, triggering a hundredfold drop in the mosquito population. Today, over a year after the end of releases, the mosquito population on the islet of Onetahi where the study took place is 1/10th what is was prior to the Wolbachia releases.

However, there is still much to learn before additional releases are performed. In particular, male Ae. polynesiensis ecology is still poorly understood. Questions such as, “how far will a male fly?” and “how long does a male live?” are still unanswered. It is essential to answer these and many other questions to optimize future releases and maximize population suppression. To help fill in these knowledge gaps, Hervé and ILM have arranged for a gathering of some of the world’s premier medical entomologists and mosquito ecologists for a workshop on male-based control strategies, including Wolbachia. Prior to the workshop, a small group of researchers, including myself (Brian), will perform a series of mark-release-recapture experiments on Tetiaroa. These experiments will involve the release of 45,000 male Ae. polynesiensis marked with fluorescent powder to obtain accurate estimates on male dispersal (flight range) and survivorship post-release, as well as investigations into novel male surveillance strategies.

The experiments have yet to take place, but we are already excited about the outcomes! More updates on the workshop and MRR experiments will follow shortly.

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Sunset on the beach of Onetahi islet in Tetiaroa

7 November 2017 – Rafael got first prize in the Plant-Insect Ecosystems (P-IE) graduate student competition. Congratulations Rafael!

Global Health Institute

19 October 2017 – Dina attended a (almost) all day retreat to define the mission of the Rutgers Global Health Institute. She contributed to the inclusion of foci in vector-borne diseases and urban health as well as the importance of direct community engagement (will follow up with colleagues she met from the School of Public Health and Information & Communications). The Global health Institute is a new Rutgers venture, the Director, Dr. Richard Marlink joined a year ago.

The Invasion Ecology Best Presentation Award goes to Rafael Valentin!

Congratulations Rafael on receiving the Invasion Ecology Best Presentation Award at the Ecological Society of America annual meeting. This year’s meeting was held in Portland, Oregon and focused on “linking biodiversity, material cycling and ecosystem services in a changing world,” as explained in the meeting’s theme. Rafael’s talk was titled “Utility of eDNA as a surveillance framework in terrestrial systems” and was listed in the Genetics and Molecular Techniques session. Only one presentation was recognized per session and Rafael received a $250 check and will be acknowledged at the 2018 national meeting for his award.

Jim at the 18th Annual Lyme & Other Tick-Borne Diseases Conference!

Jim Occi will be delivering a lecture at the 18th Annual Lyme & Other Tick-Borne Dieases Conference: What Clinicians Need to Know about an Expanding Epidemic this weekend, September 23 – 24, 2017 at the Hilton Penns Landing, in Philadelphia, PA. Jim’s lecture is titled Tick-Borne Disease Ecology: New Jersey, A Mirocosm of the Northeastern US. To learn more, you can register for the event at the Lyme Disease Associations’s website.

Jim at the New Jersey Environmental Health Association Annual Symposium!

Jim Occi will be deliver a lecture titled “New Jersey Tick Problem” at the New Jersey Environmental Health Association (NJEHA) Annual Symposium at the Hilton Garden Inn Edison-Raritan Center this Thursday, September 21, 2017, between 8:30am – 4:15pm. If you would like to be enlightened, please visit the NJEHA website to register for the event.