Ryan Ortega awarded Student Research Scholarship for mosquito control thesis

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USF College of Public Health graduate student Ryan Ortega, a candidate for the master of science in public health, has been awarded the Student Research Scholarship to fund his thesis project.

Ryan Ortega head shot 2

Ryan Ortega

Ortega, whose concentration is global communicable diseases, will be examining a number of structural and environmental factors in order to determine which contribute to more or less mosquito production in specific stormwater structures – namely, catch basins – in Polk County, Fla.  He will conduct the research under the supervision of his advisor, Dr. Robert Novak, a professor in the Department of Global Health who is a specialist in vector-borne diseases, infectious disease ecology and medical entomology.

Stormwater sewers are notorious prime habitats for mosquito species that are vectors of human disease, particularly Culex species, which are known to transmit West Nile virus.  Additionally, personnel with the local mosquito abatement district have observed Aedes mosquitoes in these habitats, and Aedes aegypti is known to transmit dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya, the latter of which is a problem in the Caribbean and of major concern for spreading into Florida.

storm drain

“Specifically,” Ortega said, “I will examine whether vegetation type and density surrounding the locations of catch basins is a determinant of mosquito production in such habitats. Little field research has been done on the effect of vegetation on mosquito production in this context. I also plan to look at how elevation changes in the structural design of the stormwater systems encourages mosquito production.  The results of this investigation would assist targeted mosquito surveillance and control strategies and bolster future efforts related to vector-borne disease risk assessment in urbanized areas.”​

The purpose of the COPH Student Research Scholarship is to provide funding for degree-seeking COPH graduate students to carry out research for their special projects theses or dissertations. The award is administered by the College of Public Health Office of Research as a competitive internal award within the COPH. Students’ proposals are reviewed by a team of COPH faculty and staff with representation from each department.