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

VectorBiTE Ecoinfo Nerds Unite!

The Ecoinformatics working group has been set up. If you are a VectorBiTE member and interested in joining this group, please go ahead! We are currently working on a draft data sheet template for VecDyn, which we will then make available for VectorBiTE members to give feedback on. Then, after a revision or two, we should be ready to start assembling vector presence-absence and abundance data.

VecTrait will follow soon after.

‘Epidemics’ website looking for science blogs and forum content


Disseminating our work to the public is an important component of scientific research. Scientific findings in scientific journals have little impact until that information is shared through an accessible medium. One way to make our research more accessible is by publishing in open access journals and also by translating scientific jargon into language that can be understood by the public, either by teaching, blogging or doing outreach. Penn State’s newly launched website on infectious diseases is a venue where scientists can participate in all three. The website, Epidemics, is affiliated with Penn State’s massive online open course (MOOC) offered through Coursera. The MOOC has generated over 90,000 visitors in the past three years, from 190 countries. The success of the MOOC has motivated researchers at Penn State to create a website designed as a resource for the public to learn more about infectious disease research, either in conjunction with taking the online course or as a general online reference for infectious disease-related information. In order for the website to be successful, we are looking for scientists to contribute content. Content should be short and targeted to an audience of non-experts. We are looking for blog-style articles, videos and posts on the discussion forums. We can offer broad visibility and global reach for content generated and the benefit of having quantifiable impact for outreach (page views, downloads). If you are interested in writing for the Epidemics website, generating other forms of content or participating in the discussion forums, contact Matt Ferrari at Have a broad reach with outreach.

Experiment Zika Virus Grant

VectorBiTE has received an email from, for an opportunity for a grant on Zika Virus. We thought we would forward this email to the members and hopefully some of you can take advantage of this opportunity! The deadline, March 15th, is approaching fast and some of the slots are filled, so make sure you get your application in soon! For information we have attached the email that we received below.


This month, Experiment is hosting a $10,000 grant for Zika Virus research.
We’re reaching out because your own Experiment project is related to vector-borne disease, viruses, ecology, or global health, and we’re asking for your help in recommending great scientists for this opportunity.
For this grant, we’re especially interested in attracting scientists from all backgrounds and disciplines, including data science, geography, anthropology, hardware, etc. To outline our goals, we’ve put together this request for experiments.
We’re aiming for 15 projects to launch together as a batch. The project that ends with the most backers will receive the additional grant to their project. The deadline for first drafts is March 15th, and we already have 5 slots filled. We’d appreciate any help spreading the word about this grant (or if you have ideas yourself)!
Lastly, we’re putting together a scientific review panel for this grant. If you’re interested in getting involved, let us know by filling out this form:
Thank you!

Introduction to VectorBiTE: vectors, disease, and forming a network

Vector borne diseases (VBDs) are caused by pathogens that depend on a third party (typically an arthropod) for transmission between hosts. These elegantly tuned systems are built on intimate interactions between pathogens, hosts, and these vectors.  Continue reading “Introduction to VectorBiTE: vectors, disease, and forming a network”