It's no secret that mosquitoes run rampant in Louisiana, as anyone who tries to go outside may know.
Environmental Sciences Assistant Professor Rebeca de Jesus Crespo is exploring why virus-carrying mosquitoes are all over New Orleans.
De Jesus Crespo is interested in studying how ecosystems develop in relation to trees in urban areas, which often affects mosquito assemblages, the gathering of mosquitoes. Trees can change temperatures in the city, or microclimates, making temperatures cooler.
Some mosquitoes are more tolerant to high temperatures than others. The more tolerant mosquitoes are to high temperatures, the more likely they are to transmit diseases.
Because of global warming projections, conditions are expected to become more favorable for mosquitoes that can tolerate higher temperatures. De Jesus Crespo’s team hopes by adding trees and creating shade, they will have less harmful mosquitoes. This will reduce the number of mosquito borne diseases in communities.
De Jesus Crespo has always been interested in environmental conservation. While studying insects' role in water quality conservation, she decided she wanted to learn more about insects' impact on the environment as a whole.
"I started studying water quality conservation and looking at insects as indicators of water quality," de Jesus Crespo said. "That made me really interested in insects in general and how they can tell us something about the environment."
This interest in water quality and insects led to her fascination with mosquitoes, which live in water as larvae.
This is de Jesus Crespo’s first year at the University, but she started the project while she was in Puerto Rico. Due to similarities like urban sprawl and warm temperatures, she wants to compare her findings from San Juan, where she grew up, to her Louisiana research.
De Jesus Crespo's project is currently in the design phase. She plans to start collecting data in New Orleans in October. She said that anyone with a home in New Orleans can help participate in the study.
“My study requires me to put traps in people’s homes in New Orleans," de Jesus Crespo said. "If anybody is interested in participating in the study and letting me put the trap in their home for mosquitoes, it would be great."