Update from the Species Interactions in Transmission Group (SpIT!): RCN Year 2

Blog post by Catherine Herzog

Excitement was in the air this past summer as members of the SpIT group gathered in London for the second RCN meeting and had a chance to finally see each other again in person since the first RCN in March 2016.  Five new members joined the group: Richard Hall (UGA), Michelle Evans (UGA), David Vasquez (UGA), Trishna Desnai (Denison), and Marie Russell (EPA Fellow, Imperial).

In its first year, SpIT! began by investigating how predation influences vector traits relevant to vector-borne disease (VBD) transmission.   We developed a mathematical model of predation and vectorborne disease risk. While looking to parameterize the model, we began a subgroup focused on literature searches and meta-analysis of the predation literature on our four vectors of interest: the mosquito, tick, aphid, and triatomine.  We explored the following questions:

  1. What evidence is there that vector populations of any stage are regulated by predators? In which life history and vector traits?
  2. What are the direct and indirect effects of predators on vector traits and transmission? What are the consumptive and non-consumptive effects?
  3. Are predator effects mediated by: predator/parasitoid/parasite identity, vector identity, type of experiment (natural/experimental), natural/ introduced predator, location/latitude, landscape, life stage, predator strategies?

At this second RCN meeting, the SpIT group continued working on our predation model, literature review and meta-analysis, and had whiteboard discussions about two other vector interactions: co-infection and competition.

After considering all three species interactions (predation, co-infection, and competition) all together, we rephrased our original question to: Do species interactions (co-infection, interspecific competition, or predation) impact vectorborne disease transmission and under what conditions?  In this second year of the RCN, SpIT plans to complete the already started predation model and meta-analysis work and proceed to move forward with a manuscript aiming to look at the mechanisms of species interactions that impact vectorborne disease transmission.  In this process, we will also identify and record gaps in knowledge, design future experiments for Simple Measurements Across Sites and Habitats (SMASH) work. Ultimately, this work will contribute to improved applications for potential control of VBD.

The RCN meeting was not all work, work, work and our members had time to enjoy the hike and BBQ food truck organized by the RCN Board, to chat at the pub down the street at the end of the day, and to enjoy the new swag stickers of the SpIT logo, developed by Trishna Desnai.  The SpIT group had a productive and fun time at the 2017 RCN and is already looking forward to the 2018 RCN.

Some recent buzz in Public Data Access

Blogpost by Sam Rund

In September, the Editor-in-Chief of JGR: Oceans, Peter Brewer, wrote a provocatively titled blog post, “Do You Expect Me to Just Give Away My Data?,” in which he stated:

“When you publish a research paper, you are also simultaneously publishing the data that supports your work. The readers of your article have equal rights to see both the words and the numbers – they are inseparable.”

Brewer then went on to ask:

“But what constitutes “data”? What about the raw instrument readings? What about the calibration runs? What about all the model code? etc, etc.”

As vector biologists, we are in a very different field (Brewer is an ocean chemist), but his question is still a good one for us to ponder. It is also exactly the kind of question that the VectorBite working group, VectorBite Open-access vector science: Data acquisition and use, is working on addressing. Indeed, our minimal standards document begins to address this question for our field: who collected the data, when was it collected, how was it collected, what is it (taxonomy), how was it identified, etc. Look for a draft coming soon!

Closer to our field, in October, Maryam Zaringhalam currently an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the National Library of Medicine, published a Blog Post titled, “Scooped! A very personal case for open science” where she reports the tale of how she was ‘scooped,’ on a project looking for the RNA modification pseudouridine sites, “. . . or, to be more precise, the first four times I got scooped —all in the span of one month.”

Dr. Zaringhalam went on to explain that while this was devastating (she was a graduate student at the time), it was an excellent example of one benefit of Public Data Access.  She took the four published reports, retrieved the archived data, performed new reanalysis, and found of the 450 sites listed between the four works – only two overlapped.

“I offered technical and biological explanations for the variability, but the fact remained that these techniques, published in high-impact journals, would likely result in false leads and dead ends in the quest to understand the biological role of pseudouridine.”

Zaringhalam’s story highlights the utility of having results replicated across labs and the need for open access data as a scientific “double-check” to confirm findings and allow other researchers to re-analyze.

With October 23-29 designated as Open Access Week, it seems fitting to open the discussion on open access in the VectotBite community. Comment on the post with your experiences using open access data for vector research or learn more at http://openaccessweek.org and at figshare’s “State of Open Data Report”.

On the vector front, VectorBiTE’s Ecoinformatics Data Platform is now online. You can also check out a large dataset of state of Iowa mosquito surveillance records now online here.









VectorBiTE: UK edition

Last week the VectorBiTE RCN working groups met at Imperial College London to engage with fellow researchers from around the world studying vector biology. Working groups focused on particular areas of vector behavior, ecology or eco-informatics and set to work organizing databases, drafting manuscripts, reviewing literature and brainstorming on ways to improve our field. Continue reading “VectorBiTE: UK edition”