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Student Research Spotlight - Amanda Catena

Posted: November 14, 2014

This is the 11th of twelve short news articles written by students, during the professional development class, about each other's research.

Goldilocks: A Mosquito’s Tale
by Megan Wilkerson

Once upon a campus, there was a researcher that used temperatures to aid her understanding of what conditions were just right for mosquito development and the malaria parasite. Temperature is an important environmental variable linked to the transmission of malaria. At present, Penn State University, PhD prospect Amanda Catena, is exploring the influence of environmental change by emulating daily temperature dynamics in custom made temperature control chambers. 
 
“Temperature fluctuation can substantially alter the development of malaria parasites within the mosquito and hence impact malaria transmission rates,” Catena said. “My observation chamber offers real time information that is more accurate and free of confounding factors” in comparison to systems used in the past.

After feeding mosquitoes on malaria infected blood, Catena will compare a series of constant and fluctuating mean temperatures inside each chamber. Recording daily activities in real time will facilitate close observation of influential factors in determining the infection prevalence in the mosquito. This research will contribute to the existing lack of knowledge available for current entomologist, especially since this study has never been done on malaria infected mosquitoes. 

Like mythical fairy tales, many believe malaria was miraculously eradicated from the United States decades ago, yet 1500 cases are still being reported annually. Essentially, the more we know about temperature and ecology, the better we can understand how global warming will affect malaria rates worldwide.