Dr. Kim Medley studies the ecology and evolution of vectors of human and wildlife disease—especially mosquitoes. 

Medley leads the vector ecology and evolution lab at Tyson Research Center, the environmental field station for Washington University in St. Louis. Her research focuses on understanding the environmental factors influencing the occurrence and dynamics of disease vectors from local to global scales.

These factors are important to consider in light of CDC’s May 1 report that found illnesses from mosquito, tick, and flea bites have tripled from 2004 through 2016. 

“The ability for a mosquito to transmit disease to humans is largely a product of the ecology of the mosquitoes themselves, i.e. the interactions among mosquitoes, their environment, and the hosts from which they take blood meals,” Medley said.  

“Mosquitoes typically develop faster in warmer weather, but very hot and dry conditions can actually slow mosquito development or even lead to mosquito mortality. In addition, many other factors should be considered when making predictions about mosquito-borne disease,” she said. “For instance, interactions among species of mosquitoes in the larval stage influence mosquito abundance and the quality of individual mosquitoes—and so do habitat availability and quality. Moreover, many of these factors vary across space, so that ecological relationships affecting abundance in one region may differ elsewhere.”

“Together with human activity patterns and mosquito control efforts, all of these factors can interact in complex ways to affect mosquito abundance and their ability to transmit disease,” Medley said. 

“Importantly, human-driven alterations of the landscape and accidental transport of mosquitoes across long-distances can contribute both to the invasion of non-native mosquito species into new areas, but can also influence the ecology and evolution of mosquitoes in our own back yards,” she said.   

Medley was the first author of a recent study about the spread of the Asian tiger mosquito in the journal Molecular Ecology.  

Medley can be reached by phone at 314-935-8448 or by email at [email protected].