April presentations!

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.

Feasting on Insects!

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.

Insect outreach at the Museum of Biological Diversity

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.

PI Meuti gives a research seminar at the University of Kentucky

Image result for university of kentucky entomologyToday 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.

Victoria and Vivian present at the CFAES Undergraduate Research Forum

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! 🙂

Undergraduate student researcher finishes brain dissections

Vivian Chang, a junior majoring in Biochemistry and minoring in Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering, completed the last of her brain dissections. First, 600 mosquito heads were collected at four hour intervals around the clock. Vivian carefully and painstakingly dissected each and every one over the past 6 months. We now plan to extract the messenger RNA from the samples to measure the levels of various circadian clock genes and the other genes they regulate. To celebrate the completion of this major hurdle, the lab celebrated with some chocolate chip cheesecake!

Undergrad Student Victoria Colin Pursues Research Distinction

Victoria Colin, a senior undergraduate researcher majoring in Biology, submitted an application to graduate with research distinction. Her project will investigate the genes that are produced in mosquito spermathecae (shown below), which are specialized structures that allow female insects to store sperm for extended periods of time.

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Specifically, her project will determine whether  female mosquitoes that are reared in winter-like conditions create more proteins to promote sperm storage than female mosquitoes that are reared in summer-like conditions. She plans to defend her research thesis in the spring and present the results of this project at the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum.

Lab Director Meuti Submitted first NSF Grant

PI Meuti submitted a collaborative proposal to the National Science Foundation with Co-investigators Dr. Cheolho Sim at Baylor University and Dr. Julie Reynolds. This full proposal was invited for submission after a favorable review of a shorter, pre-proposal. If funded, this grant will support two graduate students in the Meuti lab and will explore how the circadian clock is connected to hormonal and other signaling pathways that regulate seasonal responses in mosquitoes. Broader impact activities of the proposed grant will include leading entomology-themed after school activities for local middle and high school students in collaboration with the PAST Foundation. Here is to hoping for some good news in November!

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Insect Night Walk

Lab director Meuti and Graduate Student Robin Bautista-Jimenez volunteered at the Entomology Department’s annual “Insect Walk” on Saturday July 22nd. Specifically we helped kids and their families create “Maggot Art” by dipping fly larvae into paint and allowing them to crawl around the paper. This new station was a big hit and not only provided a unique souvenir for the kids, but also gave us an opportunity to teach youngsters and their families about insect metamorphosis, locomotion and the ecological roles of flies.