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”

A Geodatabase on Anophelines in the Afrotropics!

A research group funded by Wellcome Trust have just produced a newly updated geodatabase on anophelines in the Afrotropics (sub-Sarahan Africa, SSA). It updates the inventories produced by both the MAP and MARA groups, building on a long history of inventories, and includes both dominant and potential secondary malarial vectors. The final database comprises a total of >13,000 Anopheles survey locations. This is a wonderful new resource and is uploaded in entirety to the Harvard Dataverse for researchers to access and use (http://dx.doi.org/10.7910/DVN/NQ6CUN)

How to cite:

Kyalo D, Amratia P, Mundia CW et al. A geo-coded inventory of anophelines in the Afrotropical Region south of the Sahara: 1898-2016 [version 1; referees: awaiting peer review]. Wellcome Open Res 2017, 2:57 (doi: 10.12688/wellcomeopenres.12187.1)

The Dataverse information:

Snow, Robert W., 2017, “A geo-coded inventory of anophelines in the Afrotropical Region south of the Sahara: 1898-2016”, doi:10.7910/DVN/NQ6CUN, Harvard Dataverse, V1


By VectorBiTE member Sadie J. Ryan


The collection and public dissemination of mosquito abundance data, AMCA symposium

From discussions started at the 2016 VectorBiTE symposium, a symposium on mosquito abundance data has been organized for the American Mosquito Control Association annual meeting in San Diego in February 2017. Many of the RCN members are involved. If this topic interests you,  we hope you’ll join us!

The collection and public dissemination of mosquito abundance data: Perspectives and options.

Mosquito Surveillance in Iowa (1969-present): Perspectives, Achievements, and Challenges
Ryan Smith, Iowa State University

Mosquito surveillance has been performed in the state of Iowa for nearly fifty years. This has enabled accurate assessments of mosquito diversity, abundance, the establishment of invasive mosquito species, and arbovirus transmission. We will discuss the strengths of long-running mosquito surveillance, data dissemination, arbovirus transmission dynamics, as well as future challenges.

Mosquitoes in Hawaii: engaging the public using the INaturalist citizen science platform
Durrell D. Kapan, Ph.D. , University of Hawaii – Manoa

Perspectives from a Mosquito Control District that shares extensive data online
Barbara Bayer, Manatee County Mosquito Control District, Florida

This presentation will discuss Manatee County Mosquito Control District’s objective in posting surveillance data on our website and the pros and cons associated with general access to that data.

 Scope and insights from already publicly-available mosquito abundance data
Samuel Rund, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

There are current calls for the aggregation and dissemination of mosquito population abundance data generated by mosquito abatement districts. There are many benefits of this data sharing, but also legitimate concerns. However, many districts already provide publicly available data on their websites, or submit their data to state-level aggregators.  I will present an overview of this already publicly available data, such as the scope, differences in reporting, hurdles, and some insights gained from aggregation of the data.

Reconstructing Spatiotemporal Patterns of Vector Abundance via Online Data Sources
Micaela Elvira Martinez, Princeton University, US.

Vector-borne infectious diseases continue to pose a public health threat. Epidemiological studies of the transmission of emerging vector-borne diseases (e.g., Zika and Chikungunya) are limited, due to the lack of data as epidemics unfold. In the face of data limitations, we propose that vector abundance can be used as a proxy for pathogen transmission potential. We have identified and curated vector abundance data from online public health and environment websites. We used these integrated data to study broad spatiotemporal patterns of vector abundance. Specifically, we characterized (1) the seasonality of mosquitoes—at the genus level—using trap data, and (2) geographic variation in seasonal cycles of vector abundance. Due to the seasonal transmission of vector-borne diseases, such data can be used to form testable predictions regarding the seasonal structure of disease risk (for emerging pathogens) and to identify data-gaps to be supplemented, specifically with the collection of more trap data or epidemiological case reports of disease.

Thoughts on the difficulties of interpreting shared mosquito abundance data
Douglas Carlson, Indian River Mosquito Control District, Vero Beach, FL

Surveillance is an integral component of any IPM-based mosquito control program yet the proper interpretation of such data must take into account a variety of environmental factors.  Based on previous research, this presentation will attempt to provide some insights as to the importance of considering several variables when reviewing abundance data.  However when considering shared data, it is common that such environmental factors are not adequately considered.  This can lead to the strong possibility of incorrect conclusions being drawn from this shared information.

“Connecting Vector Abundance with Vector Ecology: VectorBITE”
Samraat Pawar, Imperial College, London, UK

The Vector Behavior in Transmission Ecology (VectorBiTE) research network brings together theoreticians and empiricists interested in better understanding the role of vector behavior and variation in individual vector traits in determining disease dynamics. As part of this effort, the network is creating two publicly available data bases. One of these, VectorDyn, will contain information on vector abundance through time and space.  We will present our current progress in this effort and discuss how the VectorBiTE community envisions applying this resource to better understand transmission dynamics.

Statewide Mosquito Surveillance System for Florida
Adriane N. Rogers, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has received an increasing number of requests for statewide mosquito surveillance data since January 2016 due to the current public health emergency of global concern that we are faced with as a result of the Zika virus. A repository for statewide mosquito distribution and abundance data does not currently exist in Florida. FDACS has been pursuing the creation of a statewide database to monitor species abundance/distribution, track invasive mosquito species, identify trends in population dynamics over time, and to enhance/predict response to emergency storm events or public health situations rapidly and early. Ideally, this would be an online data sharing platform that would make access to the data immediate. This would be useful to counties to determine what species may be occurring in neighboring counties that could potentially impact their respective control operations and could be correlated with weather, flight range of species, etc.. This information would also be useful for researchers in Florida interested in various aspects of mosquito biology or ecology, arboviruses, or mosquito control. FDACS is in the very early stages of identifying resources and information technology companies to create a database that would suit the needs of Florida. This would not only be useful for Florida, but would have potential to fill a void in other states’ mosquito surveillance capabilities as well.

Benefits and pitfalls of using mosquito abundance data from varied sources in models –  closing remarks and synthesis

Cynthia Lord, Florida Medical Entomology Lab

Those interested in this topic, may also be interested in “Map-based exploration of vector surveillance data in VectorBase” which will be held during a different session.

VectorBiTE RCN SpIT! Group Blog Update

The Species Interaction in Transmission (SpIT!) group met virtually in mid-April to discuss and approve a timeline for group research.  As laid out in the document the group created at the RCN, SpIT! will investigate whether predation influences vector traits relevant to vector-borne disease (VBD) transmission.  The group will explore the following questions:

1. What evidence is there that vector populations of any stage are regulated by predators?

2. What are the direct and indirect effects of predators on vector traits and transmission?

3. What life history and vector traits determine whether vector population regulation by predators exists?

4. Do these predator prey interactions lead to selection on the vector trait?

The group selected the interaction of predation to focus on first out of the following list of interactions: Coinfections (vectored or not), Predation / parasitoids / vector pathogen (hosts, non hosts), Competition with other vectors, Microbiome, Endosymbiont / mutualisms, and Hosts.

The group will first carry out a literature search on the following traits with the questions above in mind: Survival (juvenile / adult), Fecundity, Development rate, Host preference (behavior), Biting rate (behavior), Dispersal, Phenology (seasonal / daily), Competence, Transmission mode, Immunology / Resistance / Susceptibility.

The review will feedback and inform a general model and develop a modeling framework for effects of predation on vector populations and vector traits influencing transmission of VBD.  The group plans to organize a SMASH to propose at the next RCN meeting.

To get everyone thinking about the process of developing a model framework, group member Fadoua El Moustaid presented her exploration of the model found in Moore et al 2010 (J. R. Soc. Interface (2010) 7, 161–176).  She explained the model and parameter sensitivities, collected feedback, and answered questions from the group.  The next directions are to get informed feedback on how to modify and apply this model to specific systems and incorporate vector traits into the model.  The group will meet again virtually in June.


By SpIT group leader: Catherine M. Herzog