Dr. Dagne Duguma
Assistant Research Professor
Mosquitoes not only transmit debilitating pathogens to humans and animals mostly in Africa and other developing countries, but they alsoremain a serious economic and public health concern to the United States. Although I had a long time interest in the ecology of insects of agricultural and medical importance, I became more passionate about understanding the ecology and control of mosquitoes during my graduate studies. During my PhD study, under the mentorship of Dr. Bill Walton at UC Riverside, I developed an integrated mosquito management research plan by investigating the interaction of mosquitoes with environmental (biotic and abiotic) variables at mosquito developmental sites. Specifically, I assessed bacteria communities associated with western equine encephalitis mosquito (Culex tarsalis) and their habitat. The goal was to identify potential symbionts in mosquitoes and also determine whether mosquitoes developing in different habitats have different microbial consortia. Remarkably, bacteria communities within the larvae of Culex tarsalis were not influenced by sampling time or different habitats, and were dominated by only a few Gram-negative bacteria species (Thorsellia) that were previously known to be closely related with known mosquito symbionts. In another project, I investigated the nontarget effects of one of the commonly used biopesticides, Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. israelensis (Bti) formulation, on microbiomes and environmental variables in aquatic habitats. With this background, I am developing a research program in the following two main areas:
1. Nontarget effects: The vast majority of the information available on nontarget effects of mosquito control methods on biotic communities come from studies on vertebrates and macroinvertebrates while the effects of these methods on environmental variables and microbiota that are responsible for proper functioning of aquatic ecosystem are poorly understood. In order to fill this important knowledge gap, my research assesses the nontarget effects of existing and newly proposed mosquito control methods in Florida mainly in the following two research areas: 1) Investigate the nontarget effects of currently used pesticides, environmental management tactics (e.g. "impounding") as well as newly proposed mosquito control methods on ecologically as well as economically important species in aquatic ecosystems. 2) Investigate potential mitigation strategies when the nontarget organisms are found to be affected by application of mosquito control methods.
2. Mosquito-microbiota interactions: Bacterial communities associated with mosquitoes have been implicated in the greater survival and development of mosquitoes. My research has the following specific objectives: a) Investigate whether some of the closely associated bacteria species have potential significance for mosquito survival or vector competence; b) Compare microbiomes of native and non-native mosquito species that share similar niches in Florida.