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UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN
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Stormwater & mosquito control project

Project Overview

icon-watericon-buildingThe Stormwater and Mosquito Control Project fits into two iSEE research themes: Water & Land Stewardship; and Sustainable Infrastructure.

 

 

In Lead Investigator Brian Allan’s words: “Mosquito-borne diseases continue to pose a major threat to human health worldwide despite substantial global eradication efforts — in part because many mosquito vectors breed in human-made aquatic habitats in urban areas worldwide. The primary strategy for mosquito control is extensive application of synthetic pesticides targeting juveniles in aquatic habitats, but this is largely unsuccessful.

“A better solution may be to eliminate the aquatic breeding habitats for mosquitoes in urban areas altogether. ‘Green Infrastructure’ technologies to manage stormwater act to both reduce the rate of flow from large rainfall events and to intercept and retain runoff and contaminants on site for water quality improvement. An unintended benefit is that Green Infrastructure appears to eliminate the aquatic habitats in which mosquito larvae develop. We believe that Green Infrastructure also can be combined with a second mosquito control strategy: the manipulation of the aquatic microbiome, which forms the base of the food web for mosquitoes in stormwater habitats, will inhibit mosquito growth.

“The combination of these approaches may offer innovative and environmentally sustainable alternatives for mosquito-borne disease control and reduced dependency on insecticides. Our research project will integrate hydrological modeling and CyberGIS approaches into our field and laboratory studies of stormwater infrastructure and the aquatic microbiome to extend our findings to other regions.

“Our team draws upon multiple areas of considerable historical strength at the University of Illinois: vector biology, environmental engineering, genomic biology, and spatial analysis. This research will offer novel solutions to the persistent problem of mosquito-borne disease control while building a research initiative into sustainable infrastructure and public health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.”


Project News

Removing invasive honeysuckle from forested areas may lead to fewer mosquitoes in your neighborhood — including the kind that spread West Nile Virus — according to a paper in the August 2017 edition of EcoHealth by PI Brian Allan and members of of his project team.

During a two-year study in two separate forest fragments in residential neighborhoods in nearby Mahomet, Ill., team members collected more than 30,000 mosquitoes before and after a planned large-scale removal of Amur honeysuckle plants.

The researchers found that clearing the invasive species from the natural ecosystem reduces the abundance of both disease-transmitting and nondisease-transmitting mosquitoes that are known to bite humans.

While more investigation is needed to pinpoint biological processes at play for this reduction in mosquito abundance, the team can shed light on a few dynamics:

First, the removal of honeysuckle coincided with reductions in the number and variety of birds in the forested spaces. Without as many birds to provide blood meals to young mosquitoes, many do not survive to bite human hosts. Second, the honeysuckle supports a local, high-moisture microclimate beneficial to mosquitos’ health. Once removed, fewer mosquitoes seemed to live long enough in their lifecycle to become disease carriers.

The paper was published by Allan; former Entomology Ph.D. student Allison Gardner, now an Assistant Professor at the University of Maine; team member Juma Muturi, former Director of Medical Entomology at the Illinois Natural History Survey and now Research Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Leah D. Overmier, an Entomology student.

The authors wrote: “These results add to a growing body of literature which suggests that the ecosystem services provided by native plants — and the benefits of management of invasive species—may extend beyond oft-considered factors such as nutrient cycling, prevention of stream erosion, air filtration, and preservation of wildlife diversity to include direct ramifications for entomological risk of exposure to vector-borne pathogens.”

Read the full article in EcoHealth >>>

Principal Investigator Brian Allan reports that the second year for this iSEE-funded project has been highly productive in several major areas.

  • “We have successfully integrated the mosquito control, hydrological modeling, and cyberGIS experts on our team in an ambitious project to forecast for the continental U.S. what will be the extent of the adoption of green stormwater infrastructure and what likely will be the impact of the widespread adoption of green infrastructural practices for mosquito control,” Allan said. The team has solved a number of challenges related to this task, including:
    • the assembly of several very large data sets using “big data” approaches; and
    • the development of novel quantitative methods for estimating variation in runoff due to stormwater practices.
  • Stormwater and Mosquito Control team members are preparing their first publication from this large-scale undertaking.
  • The arrival of Zika virus in the Americas created research opportunities directly relevant to the efforts of this research theme. “We have started a research program using ‘social sensing’ (i.e., the use of geo-located social media activity data) to model networks of human movements and contacts to recreate the pattern of spread of Zika virus in the Americas and apply this to future outbreaks,” Allan said.
  • The research findings to date have motivated several additional field and laboratory studies, including surveys of green and conventional stormwater infrastructure in Illinois to explore the consequences of the adoption of green technologies for mosquito control and the impact of the stormwater environment on the assembly of the mosquito microbiome. “These additional efforts in part form the Ph.D. research of several graduate students affiliated with our project, including Elijah Juma, Chris Holmes, and Allison Parker,” Allan said.

The previous year has generated a tremendous amount of activity. According to Allan, three major areas of progress stand out:

 

 

  1. “Our primary area of activity has been to unite the mosquito control, hydrological modeling, and cyberGIS experts on our team in an ambitious project to forecast for the continental U.S. a) what will be the extent of the adoption of green stormwater infrastructure based on state and municipal regulations combined with local hydrology and soil characteristics, and b) what is the likely impact of the widespread adoption of green infrastructural practices for mosquito control based on the known biology of local vector mosquito species.”
  2. The arrival of Zika virus in the Americas has created several funding opportunities directly relevant to the efforts of this project, including a synthesis of the team’s empirical research into the stormwater environment and employing cyberGIS to use large data sets and project forecasts of disease risk and movements across landscapes.
  3. “Our findings to date have motivated several additional field and laboratory studies, including surveys of green and conventional stormwater infrastructure here in Illinois to better understand the consequences of the adoption of green technologies for mosquito control.”

The Team

Members of the Stormwater & Mosquito Control team include (from left): First row: Carla Caceres, Marilyn O'Hara Ruiz, Allison Gardner Second row: Allison Hansen, Ephantus Muturi, Brian Allan Third row: Derek Wildman, Elijah Juma, Shaowen Wang Fourth row: Catherine Wangen, Do Hyup Kim, Surendra Karki Fifth row: Aiman Soliman, Andrew Mackay, Anand Padmanabhan

Members of the Stormwater & Mosquito Control team include (from left):
First row: Carla Caceres, Marilyn O’Hara Ruiz, Allison Gardner
Second row: Allison Hansen, Ephantus Muturi, Brian Allan
Third row: Derek Wildman, Elijah Juma, Shaowen Wang
Fourth row: Catherine Wangen, Do Hyup Kim, Surendra Karki
Fifth row: Aiman Soliman, Andrew Mackay, Anand Padmanabhan

Principal Investigator and co-PIs

Operating team: Faculty, Scientists, Postdocs, and Students (all in group photo)

Former team members:


Publications & Presentations

(iSEE project members’ names in bold):

  • Publication: “Large-scale Removal of Invasive Honeysuckle Decreases Mosquito and Avian Host Abundance.” Gardner, A.M.; Muturi, E.J.; Overmier, L.D.; Allan, B.F. EcoHealth August 2017 1-12
  • Presentation: “Exploitation of Ecological Traps for Larval Control of Culex pipiens.” Gardner, A.Muturi, J.Allan, B.F. American Mosquito Control Association annual meeting, San Diego, CA, February 2017.
  • Presentation: “Direct and Indirect Effects of Native and Invasive Plants on Mosquito Ecology.” Gardner, A.Muturi, J.Allan, B.F. Northeastern Mosquito Control Association annual meeting, North Falmouth, MA, December 2016.
  • Presentation: “Adapting the NRCS Curve Number Method to Estimate Urban Runoff across the U.S.” Juma, E.O.Allan, B.F.Mackay, A.J.; Padmanbhan, A.Schmidt, A.; Soliman, A.; Wang, S. 2016 GIS Day Conference, Champaign, IL, November 2016.
  • Presentation: “Contrasting Green Infrastructure Adoption at the Public and Homeowner Scales: Potential Risks and Benefits to Managing Mosquito-borne Disease Risk.” Mackay, A.J.Wangen, C.E.Allan, B.F. 2016 Illinois Green Infrastructure Conference, Champaign, IL, September 2016.
  • Presentation: “Direct and Indirect Effects of Native and Invasive Plants on Mosquito Ecology.” Gardner, A.Muturi, J.Allan, B.F. Ecological Society of America annual meeting, Fort Lauderdale, FL, August 2016.
  • Publication: “Effect of Trapping Methods, Weather, and Landscape on Estimates of the Culex Vector Mosquito Abundance.” Karki, S.; Hamer, G.L.; Anderson, T.K.; Goldberg, T.L.; Kitron, U.D.; Krebs, B.L.; Walker, E.D.; Ruiz, M.O. Environmental Health Insights 2016:10 93-103
  • Presentation: “Potential impacts to mosquito-borne disease risk in urban landscapes from the adoption of ‘green’ storm water management practices.” Mackay, A.J.Juma, E.O.Wangen, C.E.Allan, B.F. Illinois Water Day, Urbana, IL, April 2016.
  • Presentation: “Leaf detritus of native and invasive plants alters microbial resource diversity in aquatic habitats and performance of container-breeding mosquitoes.” Gardner, A.Allan, B.; Duple, J.; Malik, N.; Muturi, J. Ecological Society of America annual meeting, Baltimore, MD, August 2015.
  • Presentation: “Discovery of a naturally-occurring ecological trap and implementation for attract-and-kill mosquito control.”  Gardner, A.; Muturi, J.Allan, B. Entomological Society of America annual meeting, Minneapolis, MN, November 2015.
  • Presentation: “Eradication of Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) alters mosquito abundance and distribution.” Gardner, A.Allan, B.Muturi, J. Illinois Mosquito and Vector Control Association annual meeting, Champaign, IL, November 2015.
  • Presentation: “Exploitation of ecological traps for mosquito control.” Gardner, A.Allan, B.; Duple, J.; Malik, N.; Muturi, J. Illinois Water Day, Champaign, IL, April 2016.
  • Presentation: “Leaf detritus alters bacterial resource composition in aquatic habitats and production of container-breeding mosquitoes.” Gardner, A.; Overmier, L.; Muturi, J.; Allan, B. IGB Fellows Symposium, Champaign, IL, May 2016.
  • Presentation: “Effect of trapping mathods, weather and landscape on estimates of the Culex vector mosquito abundance.” Karki S.; Hamer G.L.; Anderson T.K.; Goldberg T.L.; Kitron U.D; Krebs B.L.; Walker, E.D.; Ruiz M.O. Veterinary Research Day, Urbana, IL, April 2016.