We are an interdisciplinary group of faculty and graduate students at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We are trying to fill existing gap in collaboration among researchers with interests in mosquito-borne disease management. Our project is aimed at providing the next generation of scientists, mathematicians and engineers with the skills and connections they will need to take an interdisciplinary approach to predicting and managing the prevalence of infectious disease in both wildlife and human populations through the reduction of mosquito populations that pose a risk of human illness.


Project Organizers

Carla Caceres


To date, my work on the ecology of infectious diseases has focus on host-parasite interactions in freshwater zooplankton. As new diseases continue to appear in animal populations, ecologists are increasing faced with answering questions regarding the distribution and prevalence of infection. In some disease systems, it has become clear that species other than the focal host and parasite, such as those that provide food for hosts, compete with hosts for food, and prey on sick hosts, can inhibit or facilitate disease spread. Therefore, interactions with other species may influence the distribution of disease. However, finding mechanistic explanations in this web of direct and indirect effects requires merging aspects of evolutionary biology and epidemiology with community ecology. We approach our system with data-theory integration. We construct mathematical models, refine those models using experiments, and test model predictions with observations of epidemics. With this Focal Point collaboration, I am transferring these approaches from zooplankton hosts to mosquito and how the ecological interactions in their larval habitat may influence disease spread.
Learn more about Carla Caceres →

Marilyn O'Hara Ruiz

Associate Professor

Marilyn O’Hara Ruiz is a Medical Geographer in the Epidemiology Division of the College of Veterinary Medicine. The focus of her research is in the identification of spatial processes that affect the transmission and emergence of diseases of people and animals. She uses the tools and methods of geographical information science in combination with current statistical modeling approaches to model the relationships among factors related to human-social characteristics, vegetation, soils, geology, temperature and rainfall in places that experience outbreaks. She has a strong interest in vector-borne disease, and recent work with West Nile virus has been a cornerstone of this effor. She teaches courses in Spatial Epidemiology and GIS for Health Applications and has presented workshops on GIS to many public health personnel. She has used similar approaches in other systems, including rabies, Chronic Wasting Disease and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, mental illness, and sexually transmitted diseases.
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Allison Gardner

Graduate Student

I am a PhD student in the Department of Entomology, working with Dr. Ephantus Muturi and Dr. Brian Allan. My research focuses on mosquito-borne disease ecology, particularly how environmental exposures in the aquatic larval habitat affect the abundance, distribution, and life history traits of adult mosquitoes. In this Focal Point collaboration, I hope to learn about storm water management practices and techniques to model these systems in the context of minimizing mosquito habitat in the built environment.

Phong Le

Graduate Student

I am a Ph.D student in Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, working with Dr. Praveen Kumar and Dr. Marilyn O'Hara Ruiz. My current research focuses on complexity in ecohydrologic processes and mosquito-borne disease modeling. I am also broadly interested in the impacts of climate change on mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue.

Associate Faculty

Brian F. Allan

Assistant Professor

Brian is broadly interested in the ecology of infectious diseases, particularly diseases transmitted to humans from wildlife via the bite of an infected arthropod (e.g., ticks, mosquitoes). Much of Brian’s research focuses upon the consequences of human-mediated global change, such as climate change and human land-use, on the risk of exposure to parasites and pathogens carried by wildlife. While Brian works on these questions in a wide variety of wildlife communities and disease systems, he is especially interested in understanding the effects of landscape change on the emergence and transmission of tick-borne diseases in the Midwest. He uses a broad array of tools in approaching these questions, including molecular technologies, remote sensing applications, and theoretical modeling.
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Jeff D. Brawn


Brawn's research focuses on basic and applied population, community, and evolutionary ecology; statistical ecology; and restoration ecology. Currently, he is studying the effects of ecological disturbance on conservation of avian populations and communities and comparative demography of temperate and tropical birds. Brawn’s also researching the evolution of life history traits – especially dispersal, the temporal variation and historical effects on community structure, and demography and conservation of small populations. He’s also interested in ecology of edges, ecology of urbanization, and eco-epidemiology.
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Praveen Kumar


Praveen Kumar is a professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Kumar's research includes study of complexity in hydrologic processes including hydroclimatology, ecohydrology, geomorphology, and hydroinformatics. The overall goal of Dr. Kumar’s research is to improve our understanding of hydrologic processes over a range of space and time scales with particular emphasis on understanding and modeling multiple scale non-linear interactions among sub-processes.
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Ephantus J. Muturi


Dr. Muturi's research is broadly interested in the competitive interactions between mosquito species, assessing the interactive effects of temperature and sublethal doses of insecticides on adult mosquito fitness and evaluating how larval environment influences vector competence for arboviruses
Learn more about Ephantus J. Muturi →

Zoi Rapti

Assistant Professor

My main interests lie in the development and study of mathematical models of infectious diseases. In my work, I focus on various aspects of disease dynamics, such as competition for resources between competent and incompetent hosts, competition of mosquitoes at the larval stage, selective predation on infected hosts. In the past, I have investigated (together with C. Caceres) the effect of competitors and predators on parasite-host interactions. In a different project (together with J. Muturi and C. Caceres) we have studied the effect of larval competition on the competence of mosquitoes to transmit viruses. I use techniques from differential equations and dynamical systems. Recently, I have started incorporating network-based approaches to model the spread of disease along rivers and roads. This Focal Point initiative will allow me to include factors such as landscape and hydrological conditions that affect disease spread.
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Joanna L. Shisler

Associate Professor

Learn more about Joanna L. Shisler →

Michael P. Ward

Assistant Professor

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Rachel J. Whitaker

Assistant Professor

My lab combines population genomics with laboratory-based genetic and genomic experimental techniques to study the evolutionary ecology of microbial populations. We take a comparative approach, examining interactions within and between species using wild strains from natural populations isolated across spatial and temporal scales. Currently we are working on two critical forces that define the evolutionary process in all organisms: host-virus co-evolution and recombinational gene flow. We have a particular interest in how the unique biology of organisms in the Archaeal domain is reflected in genome architecture and how the CRISPR-Cas immune system functions in microbial populations.
Learn more about Rachel J. Whitaker →