Identifying Research Needs for Florida Mosquito Control
The primary mission of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory is to conduct basic and applied research on biting arthropods with special attention to the needs of Florida organizations involved in mosquito control. Accordingly, the FMEL must assess the needs of mosquito control organizations in the state of Florida. This is not an easy task. I suspect it added more than a few gray hairs to the previous FMEL Directors (the question was addressed by Dr. Provost nearly 30 years ago). How can we improve our efforts at the FMEL so that appropriate and needed information is provided to the mosquito control community? In the past, the FMEL has conducted surveys and used responses to formal written questions, direct contacts and meetings with stakeholders to direct research efforts. Other venues to solicit input from stakeholders included The Florida Coordinating Council on Mosquito Control, the FMEL Advisory Committee, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the FMCA. Since joining the FMEL nearly a year ago, I have been impressed by the breadth and diversity of issues facing Florida Mosquito Control. The challenges include many different circumstances that hinge on local and regional environments. There is a never-ending demand for new information to help protect Florida against arthropod pests and arthropod-borne diseases. This requires ever more research. There is a lot to do.
For this discussion I have categorized the information needs into several broadly defined areas. We have issues concerning floodwater mosquitoes, tideland mosquitoes, woodland mosquitoes, container breeding mosquitoes, and other bloodsucking arthropods. Then there are needs concerning current control strategies, novel control strategies, larvicides, adulticides, environmental impacts, water quality, impacts on wetland ecosystems, mosquito migrations, host preferences, mosquito disease vectors, SLE, EEE, conflicting public demands and media pressures, and emerging issues like West Nile virus in Florida, and the danger of invasive pests. And this is just a sample. This modern-day information demand is testimony to the collective wisdom of Dr. Mulrennan, Sr., Mr. Becton and Dr. Provost in creating the FMEL as a Florida research center nearly 50 years ago. However, with all these demands we find ourselves in an era of shrinking research funds. For example, the FMEL has seen a decrease in its state-operating budget of nearly 30% since 1990 (before inflation adjustments). Nearly 50% of the current research support at the FMEL is through nationally funded competitive external grants. A discussion of the effects of national funding on Florida research needs can be saved for another column.
So, how will the FMEL address Florida research needs? Certainly we will have to focus on selected research issues, those with highest priority, those for which we can accrue the needed resources, and those for which we have the greatest chance of providing meaningful, important and useful data. We must facilitate research collaborations between the Florida mosquito research laboratories and the research capabilities of the Mosquito Control Districts. The FMEL researchers will continue to make hard choices on the projects, generate the research funds and ensure completion of the projects, making sure our stakeholders, partners and collaborators are aware of and benefit from the research. Our challenge at the FMEL is to communicate with our partners, collaborators and stakeholders throughout Florida. We need to work together to ensure that research is supported through IFAS, and the University of Florida under the IFAS Florida FIRST initiatives. Florida FIRST is the plan for IFAS in the 21st century. It can be viewed at http://floridafirst.ufl.edu/
It is our collective duty and challenge to engage one another directly in the planning and conduct of research, as partners, wherever and whenever we can. We need your input, your help, and your support. The FMEL Home Page at http://fmel.ifas.ufl.edu/ lists e-mail addresses of faculty and contains brief descriptions of FMEL research. We welcome your questions, suggestions and comments through this medium. So to all our partners, keep calling, writing and speaking up at meetings. Stay tuned, the FMEL will be in touch.
Walter J. Tabachnick, Director
Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory
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