Phil Lounibos: Research Interests & Personal Background

My long-standing core focus has remained insect ecology and behavior, especially as applied to mosquito vectors of human diseases, such as malaria and dengue. Fruitful diversions and collaborations in physiological and community ecology, biological control, and population genetics have enriched these programs. In the past five years, the growing impact of mosquito invasions has stimulated ongoing research. Our current project on the Invasion Biology of Aedes albopictus tests experimentally, especially in the field in Florida and Brazil, hypotheses about the roles of predation, competition, climate, and genetic factors in the establishment of recent populations of this dengue vector in the Americas.

A boyhood interest in insects was first directed towards mosquitoes at the University of Notre Dame where I participated in undergraduate research directed by George Craig. As a graduate student in the laboratory of Carroll Williams at Harvard, my Ph.D. research on silkworm behavior dovetailed with contemporaneous studies with Bill Bradshaw on pitcher plant mosquito ecology. After Harvard, I leaped to work at the ICIPE Coastal Research Station in Mombasa, Kenya to perform research on treehole mosquito ecology and to lead a team of investigators testing genetic methods for control of the yellow fever mosquito in East African villages.

From Kenya I moved to the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory (FMEL) because of its subtropical location in Vero Beach and opportunities for further field research on mosquitoes. The transfer of this Laboratory to the University of Florida, subsequent appointments of Ph.D staff to faculty status, and opportunities for students have gradually transformed FMEL into a more academically oriented institution than it was when I arrived in 1977. Particularly in the past decade, I have become more involved in mentoring postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, lecturing in departmental courses in Gainesville, and developing short courses for FMEL.

Different species of mosquito pests or vectors have been objects of my basic and applied research, dictated by perceived needs and opportunities. Emphases at various times have included the ecology of mosquito immatures associated with aquatic plants; the communities of mosquitoes in treeholes and other phytotelmata; malaria vectors in South America, and invasive dengue vectors. Although most research is Florida-based with applications to within-State mosquito problems, many programs have important international components, in such countries as Venezuela, Peru, and Brazil. Financial support for these programs has been generously supplied from State contracts and Federal grants, particularly from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.