Projects

Mosquito management in association with constructed and rehabilitated wetlands

Mosquito populations associated with constructed and rehabilitated wetlands in Australia have the potential to cause serious nuisance biting impacts but also pose significant public health risks through the transmission of arboviruses (e.g. Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus). However, constructed and rehabilitated wetlands can play an important role in local ecosystems by providing important habitats for native flora and fauna as well as reducing the impacts of pollution. Mosquito management strategies should be, where possible, complementary to the overall objectives of wetland management.

An assessment of the risks associated with current and future mosquito populations will be crucial for the development of appropriate mosquito management strategies for both constructed and rehabilitated wetlands. The minimisation of mosquito populations associated with a wetland will not only reduce the potential nuisance-biting and/or public health risks but will greatly improve the amenity of the wetland and surrounding areas.

In some cases, mosquitoes associated from nearby habitats may cause pest impacts in and around a constructed or rehabilitated wetlands and it is important that such a situation is quickly identified to prevent unnecessary insecticide or habitat modification interventions. If a “mosquito problem” is identified, mosquito control in the closest wetland is not always the most effective course of action.

Surveillance of mosquito-borne disease activity

The NSW arbovirus surveillance program for monitoring mosquito populations has been conducted annually since the summer of 1984/85, with arbovirus isolations from the mosquitoes beginning in the 1988/89 season. Collection sites have varied over this time but up to 30 locations throughout the state, in coastal and inland regions, have been used. These are typically operated by local councils. The trapping program is designed to cover the period of seasonal increase and decrease in the populations of the major arbovirus vectors, from mid-spring to mid-autumn, and also to cover the period for natural activity and transmission of arboviruses (especially the alphaviruses and the flaviviruses).

The compilation and analysis of data collected over a number of successive years will provide a solid base from which to determine the underlying causes for the seasonal fluctuations in arbovirus activity and the relative abundance of the mosquito vector species affecting the well-being of human communities. This information will be the basis for modifying existing local and regional vector control programs, and the creation of new ones.

I provide information on mosquito ecology to the program, including undertaking sampling and site-specific investigations. Assistance is also provided for the coordination of workshops and other public meetings regarding mosquito-borne disease risk in NSW.

Mosquito repellent research

As the first line of defense against biting mosquitoes, personal insect repellents remain one of the most heavily promoted measures the community can take to avoid mosquito bites. As well as conducting research into the effectiveness of new candidate repellents, I’m interested in how the community responds to the public health education messages of local health authorities. Is the community sufficiently informed about how, when and why they should use repellents?

What is the ecological role of mosquitoes?

On of my interests is the investigation of the ecological role provided by mosquitoes. What are mosquitoes “good” for anyway? Beyond the understanding that mosquitoes are food for a range of arthropods, fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles and mammals, I often wonder just how important a role mozzies may play in local ecosystems. We’ve previously investigated both frogs and bats and hope to continue this work into the future.

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