Evolution of Human-Vector Associations
The northern house mosquito, Culex pipiens, is a globally important vector of West Nile virus, as well as several other parasites and pathogens. Extraordinary diversity exists among sub-populations of these mosquitoes; variation in mating, egg-laying, and host-seeking behaviors have all been observed. This diversity has allowed some populations of Culex pipiens to adapt to urbanized landscapes and live in close association with humans. A full description of these adaptive traits can be seen here in our Departmental "Bug of the Week" blog. Our research seeks to elucidate the genetic basis for these adaptations in order to better understand how close vector-human associations evolve and impact the epidemiology of arthropod-borne disease transmission.
Pest Responses to Modern Agriculture
Cultivation of the natural landscape for agricultural purposes is one of the most ubiquitous examples of human-induced environmental change. Modern agricultural practices involve sweeping changes to the composition of plant species across broad geographic regions, including shifts from one crop cultivar to another. Since their commercialization two decades ago, transgenic corn and cotton that endogenously express crystal proteins derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) have replaced conventional varieties throughout the landscape. These Bt varieties successfully suppress population growth in some Lepidopteran agricultural pests, but not others. To better inform IRM strategies, our research aims to quantify the genomic responses of poorly-managed and well-managed species to expansion of Bt crops in the landscape.