PI Meuti attended a workshop sponsored by the Insect Genetic Technologies Research Coordination Network in Rockville, Maryland from July 22-27th. While there she learned how to use transposons and CRISPR/Cas9 to create transgenic insects and received hands-on training in preparing and injecting freshly laid insect embryos. She looks forward to applying all of the knowledge and skills that she learned here so that she can conduct functional assays to determine the role of the circadian clock in seasonal responses in mosquitoes and how accessory gland proteins in male mosquitoes might influence female blood feeding behavior, fecundity and survival.
PI Meuti started this month by giving the plenary talk (think a sciencey-keynote address) to kick off this year’s Insect Biotech Conference at Niagara on the Lake in Ontario, Canada (June 6-8th). While there PI Meuti met several top-notch Canadian insect physiologists and got to sample some delicious ice wine!
Then, to celebrate her 33rd birthday, Megan gave her TED-style Discovery Talk at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) for their monthly “COSI After Dark” event. The theme for this month was on “Dangerous Science,” so Megan highlighted how mosquitoes are the world’s most dangerous animals, killing over 850,000 people in 2015 alone. Megan also described how the pesticides that we are using are also dangerous for ecosystems and her lab’s work to uncover aspects of mosquito seasonal biology so that we may one day develop mosquito-specific strategies to control these dangerous and deadly disease vectors.
Above is a picture of an overwintering mosquito’s head taken with a super-cool USB microscope that the COSI folks allowed the Meuti Lab to borrow.
We recently discovered that we were one of two proposals selected for a SEEDS Grant from Ohio State’s Infectious Disease Institute!
This $24,985 grant will be used to purchase materials and to allow PI Meuti to receive invaluable training on CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology. Together these resources and training will allow us to submit more competitive and compelling grant proposals to the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. The ultimate goal of these grants will be to determine how the circadian clock regulates the hormonal and signalling pathways that generate seasonal responses in insects.
Caitlin Peffers recently graduated with her bachelor’s of science in Entomology from Michigan State University. While there she worked on pheromone biosynthesis genes in spotted wing fruit flies (Drosophila suzukii), a recent and serious invasive pest.
Both students look forward to combining their interests in ecology to provide a better understanding of mosquito seasonal biology in their natural environments. We are absolutely thrilled to have them! 🙂
Today undergraduate Biology major Victoria Colin successfully defended her research thesis! Victoria wrote an outstanding scientific-style manuscript describing the role of antioxidant proteins and the detailed methods she used to measure their abundance in the spermathecae (sperm storage organs) in reproductively active and overwintering mosquitoes. Here she is shown with OSU Entomology Department Chair, Dr. Carol Anelli who served on Victoria’s thesis committee.
After graduation, Victoria plans to put her research skills to good use and work in a lab for a year before attending medical school. Congratulations Victoria on a job very well done!
This month continues to be busy! PI Meuti presented a bit of her work on the relationship between daily and seasonal clocks to a diverse audience of researchers and scholars at Ohio State for the “Metaphors of Time” conference. Other topics at the conference included how Buddhists envision time, how time is depicted in cartoons and comics, and the ways that women’s bodies are used as metaphors of time in the Torah and Bible. Click here for a link to the conference webpage.
Later that week, PI Meuti then traveled to the OARDC Mosquito Conference, organized by Entomology professor Dr. Peter Piermarini. Here Megan presented her recent work on how male mosquitoes change the composition of their accessory gland proteins in response to daylength to influence female biting and egg laying.
Entomology grad student Emily Justus and PI Meuti prepared an insect feast for OSU students in Entomology 2101: Pests, plagues, pollinators and posions: Insects in Human Affairs. The topic du jour was entomophagy, or human consumption of insects. Although it might seem weird, insects are high in protein, low in fat & have all essential vitamins and minerals that we need. Better yet, they are cheaper and more sustainable to produce than chicken, cows or pigs. And they are delicious! No wonder they are being hailed as the “food of the future!” Today we had waxworm tacos, cookies with honey-glazed meal worms, and a cake made out of cricket flour.
Today PI Meuti along with dozens of other scientists from Ohio State’s Entomology and Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology volunteered at the Museum of Biological Diversity’s annual Open House. Over 3,000 people of all ages flocked to the museum and got to learn about the incredible plants and animals housed in the museum’s collection from bonafide experts. A personal highlight of the day was sharing the experience with my own kiddos, Luke and Madeleine.
Today PI Meuti presented her research at the University of Kentucky where she gave a seminar to the Entomology Department. The seminar focused on two key areas of Megan’s work. First, her findings of how the circadian clock might be telling female mosquitoes what time of year it is. Second, she presented preliminary data suggesting that male mosquitoes can also respond to daylength and change the composition of their accessory gland proteins to influence whether a female becomes a blood sucking vampire and egg producing machine OR whether she stores the sperm and goes into reproductive arrest. The seminar was very well-received and Megan got to spend a lot of time visiting with the outstanding scientists at UK’s Entomology Program, including her good friend and former lab-mate Nick Teets.
Undergraduate researchers Victoria Colin and Vivian Chang presented their work in the Meuti lab at the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences annual undergraduate research forum today.
Victoria dazzled her judges with her hard-won data demonstrating that antioxidant genes are more abundant in the spermathecae of overwintering female mosquitoes. As these receptacles house and protect sperm while the females survive 3-6 months of winter, her findings suggest that these genes might be essential for keeping the sperm alive and healthy.
Vivian similarly impressed audiences with her results that demonstrate that one important circadian clock gene cycles in the brains of nondiapausing mosquitoes and is upregulated but does not cycle in the brains of overwintering ladies. As this gene is a transcription factor that regulates the abundance of other important genes and proteins her findings represent a critical step forward to trying to figure out how the circadian clock might help mosquitoes measure daylength and figure out what time of year it is.
This was the first time that either of them had presented their research and both did an outstanding job! 🙂