Dr. Liming Zhao

Assistant Research Professor

My research focuses on the biology and control of mosquitoes and the pathogens they transmit with attention to novel mosquito and mosquito-borne disease control methods, particularly on development, testing, and application of pesticides in Florida. In order to reach this goal, I will use multidisciplinary approaches including molecular biology, biochemistry, toxicology, ecology, and entomology to carry out the best laboratory experiments and field trials. I aim to reduce insecticide application while maintaining mosquito control and environmental stewardship.

Molecular Approach and Natural Products
I developed dsRNA constructs from mosquitoes with RNA interference technology for use as a molecular pesticide. I subsequently tested the toxicity in the laboratory using a variety of methods including topical application, sugar bait, and microinjection. Most of this research took place at the Mosquito and Fly Research Unit, Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, and Biological Control of Pests Research Unit, National Biological Control Laboratory, ARS-USDA. I employed toxicology tools to determine the toxicity and efficiency in biological agents such as plants, insects, viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Using a molecular approach, I will study the mechanisms and ecological impact of these agents in field trials. I will determine and understand how natural products and pesticides, e.g. Bacillus thuringiensis serovar israelensis (Bti), affect the physiological responses of mosquitoes by examining their effect on gene expression and reproduction. These researches on mosquito biology and the control of mosquitoes will improve and advance mosquito control operations in the field in Florida.

Combination of Biologically Based Control Technology for Mosquitoes
Americans use millions of pounds of formulated pesticides annually to protect animals and humans from biting flies. In the future, this use of pesticides will be seriously constrained by societal issues, such as legal and economic factors. Our goal is to reduce pesticide application while maintaining best mosquito control and environmental stewardship. Alternative control technology is needed to augment/replace conventional insecticides for local rapid-response insect eradication and for long-term containment and/or control of mosquitoes and vector species. The future research in this area comprises the development of new, safe, and effective biologically-based, non-pesticidal control methods for mosquitoes and other arthropods of medical and veterinary importance.