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Modeling mosquito flight to study their behaviors

Mosquitoes are sometimes referred to as the deadliest animals on Earth, spreading diseases that kill an estimated 725,000 people per year. Compared to the outsized impact of these insects relatively little is known about their behaviors.

The Research Corporation for Science Advancement awarded a $100,000 Scialog grant to measure and model mosquito flight and movement behavior at high spatiotemporal resolution. Principal investigators are Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec, PhD, a disease ecologist and associate professor in Emory’s Department of Environmental Sciences, and Gauillaume Bastille-Rousseau from Southern Illinois University.

Scialog grants support research by stimulating interdisciplinary conversation and community building around important scientific themes.

Vazquez-Prokopec, who is a faculty member in the PBEE program, studies the complex interactions between pathogens, their hosts and the environment that shape how diseases spread and epidemics are propagated. Tapping technology capable of photographing flying mosquitos at the rate of 100 images per second, the researchers will collect data on their movements through space and use it to create 3D models of their flight patterns. These simulations will help them to test mysteries such as how the insects react to different repellants, how they spend their time when they are not biting us and why they seem to prefer biting some people more than others.

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