Egizietal2018(EcoHealth) This was a project that was a long time in the making! But we accumulated co-authors along the way and the content became more and more interesting. Culex erraticus is a southern mosquito species that was first detected in NJ in 1969 and became officially present across all 21 NJ counties by 2011. We performed a bloodmeal analysis on specimens “set-aside” by county mosquito control programs across NJ and found that the primary (over 50%) blood hosts for this mosquito in NJ are large-sized waterbirds such as double-crested cormorants and green herons. In that blood we also found a new species of bird malaria (Plasmodium) that appears to be a wetland bird specialist. Unlike exotic mosquitoes such as the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus or the house mosquito, Culex pipiens, that are domestic and for the most part do not venture away from cities and suburbs, native species moving north are out there, in nature. Their expansion may therefore have strong effects on wildlife, which may spill over to humans – for example, birds are the reservoir hosts for deadly arboviruses such as Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV). Cx. erraticus does bite humans also.
21 April 2018 – NJ Department of Agriculture formally announced the re-emergence of the invasive tick (aka exotick) – click on the date for the press-release. A few news outlets have responded: NJ.com; wrnjradio.com; Philadelphia Inquirer; CBS New York; People Magazine. There was also a piece on National Public Radio. Reaction overall seems muted, sometimes fatalistic and often humorous (check out the comments on NJ.com’s website 🙂 )
13 April 2018 – It was Friday the 13th but also one of the first warm days of this Spring and Jim decided to go check up on the ticks in the Hunterdon farm where an invasive tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis, was confirmed in 2017. Andrea went with him – the “buddy system” is an important tool of surveillance. They were also supported by Tadhgh Rainey from the Hunterdon Department of Health and Adam Randall from F&W. Jim brought along CO2 traps, which turned out to be a great decision. They swept the grassland and got nothing, but found several nymphs and a few larvae and adults were attracted to the dry ice. They caught them with tweezers as they climbed onto the white cardboard surrounding the dry ice cooler.
11 December 2017 – Found out today that “Early detection of terrestrial invasive insect infestations by using eDNA from crop surfaces” by Valentin, Fonseca, Nielsen, Leskey and Lockwood was formally accepted for publication in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, a ESA (the Ecology one) journal. Frontiers publishes short, high-impact research communications of broad interdisciplinary appeal. Congratulations Rafael!
22 November 2017 – We had to wait until an official joint press release was issued by the NJ Dept. of Agriculture and NJ Dept. of Health yesterday, but on November 9 Andrea, using the barcode mtDNA sequence, identified an unknown tick that had been found in Hunterdon county, NJ back in August. The tick was brought to our attention by Jim Occi, who was contacted by the Hunterdon Department of Health that shrewdly had figured out the tick was “something different”. Shortly after, Andrea’s tick ID was confirmed by USDA-APHIS. It is Haemaphysalis longicornis, the “longhorned tick” or “bush tick”. This species is native to northeast Asia (China, Russia, Japan) but expanded into Australasia (Australia, New Zealand, Pacific islands) in the 1800’s or early 1900’s. While H. longicornis had been intercepted several times in United States ports of entry, there are no known established populations in the New World. This tick is decidedly an agricultural (livestock) pest and disease vector and it has been associated with human pathogen transmission, particularly in farmers and those handling livestock. The question in everyone’s mind is: will it survive the NJ winter? That will likely depend on where it came from.
The Fonseca Lab would like to officially welcome Melvin DelVillar to our lab. He is an undergraduate student in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University, and is pursuing a BS in both Entomology and Kinesiology & Health. Melvin hopes to become a MD specializing in infectious diseases and tackling the issue of vector-borne diseases.
At Rutgers University, Melvin is an executive board member of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) where he coordinates events and seminars that help prepare students for the rigors of medical school and the pre-medical track.
Melvin is interested in the relationship between arthropod transmitted vector-borne diseases and people, and how this relationship changes over time and space. As a lab technician in the Fonseca Lab, Melvin is currently researching the expansion of invasive species of potential vectors in northern parts of New Jersey.
Melvin is a running enthusiast and is a member of the Rutgers Running Club and the Garden State Track Club.
October 11, 2017 – Rafael, Anne Nielsen and Dina met up with Sven-Erik Spichiger (PA Department of Agriculture) and visited sites in Pennsylvania infested with the spotted lanternfly (SLF), Lycormia denticulata. A beauty and a beast. SLF was first detected in eastern PA (Berks county) in 2014 and has since spread to five others (Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, Lehigh and Northampton). Arrival in NJ is imminent and we need to be pro-active. Rafael carefully collected samples of honeydew, soil, leaves covered in sap and black mold. Will there be detectable SLF DNA?? That is the question. For the answer, keep tuning in.
You can read more about Dr. Fonseca, her early career, fears and successes and her discussion of the potential effects of climate change-driven sea level rise on salt marsh mosquitoes in the October 2016 issue of Princeton Magazine. Click on this link and then scroll to page 60-61.