Title: Mathematical modeling of mosquito-borne disease transmission in wildlife
Mosquito-borne diseases (MBDs) cause enormous losses of human lives and health throughout the world. Recent environmental changes, including global climatic warming and increased human encroachment on natural areas, are predicted to increase the spread of MBDs. The emergence of novel zoonoses (diseases originating in wildlife and capable of spreading in human populations) is also expected to accelerate, stretching thin our ability to respond effectively to future epidemics. These emerging crises call for substantial advancement in our understanding of how ecological processes drive MBD transmission within and between wildlife populations. But understanding the underlying factors driving MBD outbreak risk is a substantial challenge. For these diseases, transmission occurs during blood feeding, an essential step in the mosquito reproductive cycle. Blood feeding itself is an interactive ecological process: the animals upon which mosquitoes feed may defend themselves, leading to a back-and-forth struggle that can significantly alter transmission rates.
Mathematical models have long been used to study MBD transmission, dating back to the late 19th century when it was first discovered that mosquitoes vectored malaria. However, recent advances in our understanding of mosquito ecology call into question some long-held assumptions underlying these classical models. I will discuss my work which focuses on incorporating ecological interactions into mathematical models of MBD transmission, including resource competition between host animals and defensive behaviors against mosquito biting. These interactions will be further connected to recent work incorporating the effect of ambient temperature on mosquito biology into MBD transmission models.