Office: 310 Deering Hall               Email: allison.gardner@maine.edu               Phone: 207-581-3115

Invasion and community ecology of tick-borne disease transmission in New England

Due to the combination of climate change and an expanding human-wildlife interface accompanying land development, Maine has seen a five-fold increase in Lyme disease incidence over the past decade, and several emerging tick-borne diseases (e.g., babesiosis, anaplasmosis, Powassan virus) are on the rise. A major focus of our research is understanding the patterns and socio-ecological mechanisms of the range expansion of tick-borne disease in Maine. We are considering the impacts of climate change and land use decision-making (e.g., silviculture) on disease transmission dynamics. We also are conducting a tick-borne disease entomological risk assessment in Acadia National Park.

Coupled dynamics of tourism and the spread of mosquito-borne viruses

Heterogeneity in host mobility long has been recognized as a key driver of pathogen dispersal across a range of spatial scales, but difficulty characterizing human mobility has impeded inclusion of host movement as a parameter in predictive models for mosquito-borne disease risk. Meanwhile, traveler risk perceptions of mosquito-borne viruses appear to have substantial negative economic impacts on the Central American tourism sector, yet how visitors perceive mosquito-borne disease risk and whether these risk perceptions affect actual travel behaviors remain underexplored. We are using novel data streams to characterize human mobility patterns and understand the contribution of host movement to the spread of chikungunya and Zika viruses in the Americas.

Landscape ecology and management of mosquito disease vectors in the Caribbean

In collaboration with the Cape Eleuthera Institute, we are investigating the landscape ecology and management of mosquito disease vectors (Aedes aegypti and Culex quinquefasciatus) in Eleuthera, The Bahamas. This research effort involves conducting household mosquito collections along a socioeconomic gradient and surveys of resident knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding mosquito ecology and mosquito-borne disease prevention. We also seek to test novel inexpensive, sustainable, and effective alternatives to conventional insecticides for mosquito control, with an emphasis on management of mosquitoes in domestic rainwater harvesting and storage systems.

Ecology and management of mosquitoes in stormwater infrastructure

Roadside stormwater catch basins provide widespread aquatic habitat for production of Culex pipiens, an important mosquito vector for West Nile virus in the northeastern United States. Our research seeks to understand the ecological drivers of mosquito production in stormwater infrastructure and devise novel control strategies to manage mosquitoes in these habitats. In particular, we are investigating the manipulation of leaf litter as a tool to alter both the attractiveness of catch basins to females for oviposition and the quality of the habitats for developing larvae. Our goal is to develop an attract-and-kill strategy for larval mosquito control, where mosquitoes are lured to lay eggs in a low quality habitat.