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The Mosquito BEACONS Working Group

The Mosquito BEACONS Working Group

Culex coronator is a highly invasive Neotropical species that has been introduced to Florida and the southeastern United States. (Photo Credit: L. E. Reeves).

About the BEACONS Working Group

The Mosquito Biodiversity Enhancement and Control of Non-native Species (BEACONS) working group has members from Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, and North and South Carolina, and consists of academic researchers, mosquito control personnel and senior management, private pest control, state public health and agriculture entities, and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

We are a multi-state committee dedicated to providing leadership on invasive mosquito species in the southern region. The overall goal of our working group is to increase the capacity for non-native and invasive mosquito surveillance and control across our region, while also raising awareness of new and potential introductions. 

Caption: Culex coronator is a highly invasive Neotropical species that has been introduced to Florida and the southeastern United States. (Photo Credit: L. E. Reeves).

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Meet the Board of Directors


Bryan Giordano

Bryan V. Giordano

Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory
UF/IFAS

        

Biography

I am an early career scientist interested in evaluating current mosquito and arbovirus surveillance methodologies through field sampling, data analyses using ecological statistics, and virus detection from field-collected specimens. During my Ph.D. I received extensive training in the fields of mosquito collection and arbovirus detection and quantification (e.g., qPCR, plaque assay), which I used to develop optimized mosquito and arbovirus surveillance schemes. Utilizing sampling methodologies that preferentially collect gravid and blood-engorged mosquitoes improves the likelihood of detecting virus-positive mosquitoes.

Mosquito pool testing is a cost-effective method of arbovirus surveillance and provides mosquito control and public health agencies with species-specific information sets that can be used to inform mosquito management programs. By comparing mosquito infection rates across different trap types and vertical strata, my program deliverables provide valuable information regarding trap bias, gaps in surveillance efforts, while improving our knowledge of horizontal and vertical distributions of vector abundance and arbovirus prevalence. Selecting the right surveillance tools – trap type, location, and attractants used – is an essential step as trap bias can produce inaccurate estimates of mosquito and arbovirus abundance and diversity. Knowledge of the sampling effort required to accurately describe the abundance and diversity of mosquito communities can be used to develop enhanced surveillance programs, lessening the financial and labor burden of mosquito management.

Benjamin-Allen

Benjamin Allen

Mosquito Control Department
City of Jacksonville

Biography

Benjamin Allen - Mosquito Control Department
City of Jacksonville

I am an early career scientist and civil servant interested in interspecific competition, predator-prey relationships, and metapopulation dynamics as applied to IPM. During my Ph.D. I studied how intraguild predation might be stabilized in odonate nymphs by context-sensitive shifts in the tradeoffs between anti-predator and prey-seeking behavior. I received extensive training in insect sampling, behavioral assays, experimental design, and statistics that I used to analyze shifting patterns in prey-selection, movement, and subsequent mortality risk across time, and apply that knowledge in my current position.

There have been repeated introductions of non-native species into the United States as well as range-expansions of native species that have displaced natives and other long-established invasive taxon; and these displacements have in some cases been reversed (notably Aedes aegypti re-colonizing urban areas from which Aedes albopictus displaced them). Understanding the mechanisms that facilitate changes in mosquito communities is going to be increasingly important in an era of climate change and increasing globalization; as more wild-spaces are converted into human habitation or otherwise disrupted by human activities. My other major project involves utilizing ArcGIS to map insecticide resistance by species across all of Duval County to at least delineate, if not predict, resistant populations of each species so that management practices can be adjusted in the most cost-effective and least-harmful manner possible. Insecticide chemistry is extremely limited, and resistance is becoming increasingly common. If the spatial distribution of resistance is known, it might be possible to leverage selection and metapopulation dynamics to keep currently-available insecticides useful.

Lindsay Campbell

Lindsay P. Campbell

Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory
UF/IFAS

        

Biography

I am an early career interdisciplinary scientist with a focus on the spatial ecology of medically important arthropod vectors. My research focuses on investigating distributions, abundances, and functional connectivity of vector species. I use a variety of tool sets to investigate these questions, including geographic information systems and remotely-sensed satellite imagery, and I draw from methods developed in the fields of distributional ecology, landscape ecology, and landscape genetics. My interest in disease ecology began as an undergraduate research assistant, and continued throughout my master’s studies, when I focused my thesis project on anthropogenic landscape disturbance and Buruli ulcer disease in Benin, Africa.

During my PhD studies in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, I became further absorbed in spatial modelling of medically important vector species, culminating in my dissertation work “Investigating Distributions, Abundances, and Connectivity of Mosquito Vectors.” As a postdoctoral fellow in the Bacterial Special Pathogens Branch at the CDC, I worked with epidemiologists in Atlanta and in Ethiopia to analyze spatial patterns of environmental bacteria transmission. As an Assistant Professor, my research program continues my work on investigating spatial and environmental variables contributing to mosquito species distributions, abundances, and functional connectivity across the landscape. In this context, my lab analyzes and synthesizes large quantities of field collected data compiled from heterogenous sources, using environmental variables derived from multiple Earth observation products, and a suite of ecological modeling approaches to better inform public health and vector control management strategies. My publication record demonstrates my capacity as a productive early career scientist and my commitment to communicating my research findings to a broader audience.

Daniel Killingsworth

Daniel F. Killingsworth

Environmental Security Pest and Lawn
Cantonment, Florida

Biography

I am a pest management professional interested in elevating the surveillance and decision-making strategies of the mosquito management communities within the public health and private sectors to bring a more unified and effective approach to vector population control efforts through integrated methods. A main area of interest is the interaction of invasive mosquito species with endemic species in the developmental stages as well as interactions with other Nematocera.

I have received extensive training in mosquito field collection, surveillance, mosquito identification, and vector ecology. With this knowledge, I develop pest management planning and ecologically balanced treatment strategies for large scale public and private land holdings. Often, a chemical treatment is not the best option and a more ecologically sensitive approach is needed. A true integrated pest management plan considers these factors with data and analysis. Trapping and collection schemes must factor time and place to better reflect vector population dynamics for immature as well as adult phases. Recognition of mosquito species with an understanding of behavioral characteristics better informs the treatment strategy to target the species of concern and minimize detrimental effects of control efforts to pollinators and other non-target organisms. Developing lines of communication between public health mosquito control districts and the private pest management industry will better enable the tracking and treatment of invasive mosquito species throughout the southeastern United States.

Michael Riles

Michael T. Riles

Beach Mosquito Control District
Panama City Beach, Florida

Biography

Beach Mosquito Control District
Panama City Beach, Florida

I am the lead medical entomologist for Beach Mosquito Control District in Panama City Beach, Florida. I manage all surveillance including the presence of arboviruses and have extensive training performing mosquito pools for arbovirus testing including Vector Test (a rapid antigen wicking assay), which I use to screen Culex mosquito pools for West Nile virus. I manage a range of traditional and non-traditional surveillance methods including domestic surveillance of Stegomyia container inhabiting mosquitoes, monitoring the abundance of Aedes albopictus populations, and the possible reemergence of Aedes aegypti.

I have extensive training identifying mosquito species throughout the southern United States including Puerto Rico and Australia. I am an advocate for accessible and up-to-date county records improving the accuracy of morphological identification of mosquito species through education and Extension. Throughout my professional career, I have demonstrated the importance of accurate mosquito identification when monitoring invasive species introductions in the United States. Knowledge of adjacent state and county records improves the accuracy of identifications where these practices can give indicators such as the introduction of invasive mosquito species Aedes japonicus into Florida. It is necessary to know bionomics and ecology, sampling bias, seasonal patterns, and geographic distributions to efficiently survey mosquito populations and implement effective control strategies.

YooSook Lee

Yoosook Lee

Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory
UF/IFAS

        

Biography

I study natural populations of arthropod vectors using population genomic approaches. Dispersal has particular importance to innovative pest management strategies such as ‘Auto-Dissemination’ or genetically engineered mosquitoes. I am also interested in population divergence and genetic variations associated with epidemiologically-important phenotypes such as insecticide resistance and pathogen resistance.

These aspects are critical in translating basic research of ecology and evolution to applied vector control efforts including the use of genetically-altered mosquitoes. Using a combination of genomics and bioinformatics tools, I also specialized in developing multi-detection assays for mosquito species and hybrid identification, pathogen detection, chromosome inversion genotyping, and blood source detection for various insect species groups.

BEACONS Board of Directors

Elmer W. Gray

University of Georgia

        

Biography

Elmer Gray serves as the Public Health Extension Specialist focusing primarily on mosquito-related issues and inquiries. Gray has been based on the Athens campus since 1999, where he also oversees and operates the NIH/NIAID supported Black Fly Research and Resource Center. Prior to the arrival of Covid-19, mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit were one of the primary insect-related, public health issues facing Georgians. Mosquitoes are commonly encountered pests across Georgia and the more integrated an approach that is used to suppress populations, the more effective the results. Pesticide resistance is a growing concern to the mosquito control industry and protecting our pollinators from unnecessary pesticide applications has never been more important.

In fulfillment of this role, Gray assists in a range of training opportunities for the mosquito/pest control industry, provides site evaluations and Integrated Pest Management based recommendations to specific mosquito-related problem sites, and answers a range of agent, media and public questions and inquiries. Gray serves on the Board of Directors of the Georgia Mosquito Control Association (GMCA). By working with the members of the GMCA, he stays in close communication with the various entities across the state who are involved in the day-to-day duties of mosquito surveillance and control. This communication keeps him informed of the changing conditions and populations of mosquitoes that the operators are facing daily. Gray uses this information to enhance the training and communication he provides to all entities.