The QMEE CDT Project proposal database

Welcome to the QMEE CDT Project proposal database. This is a live list of projects proposals put forward by PIs across the CDT partner institutions

PIs/Supervisors will continue to add projects to this list over the next few months, so do keep checking back! You can search the projects using the box below: simply enter some text and press Search to do a text search across all the database fields. If you want to search more finely, the search tool also allows you to search on particular details of the project descriptions: you will see these finer search options appear if you click on the search box.

Click on the view button next to a project to get the full proposal description. If you want to download project details, either for all projects, or for a subset you have searched for, then click on the 'Download details' button.

Trait-based approaches for predicting mosquito distributions under environmental change
Mosquito-borne diseases cause substantial mortality and morbidity worldwide and are changing in distribution and impact due to environmental change. Invasive mosquitoes have become widely established across Europe this century, with subsequent outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya virus. Species distribution models (SDM) are widely used to inform policy responses to these threats, for example to understand how invasive mosquito vectors might spread following arrival and where vectors might overlap with key hosts to permit transmission. However, insect vector distributions are most commonly modelled species-by-species even though novel statistical community modelling methods are now available. For other insect taxa, a mechanistic understanding of likely environmental change impacts has been gained by modelling and comparing distributional responses simultaneously across multiple species with different ecological traits. The availability of new continental-scale distribution data, of environmental predictors appropriate to mosquito habitats and statistical methods for dealing with species interactions, dispersal limitation and biased recording effort, mean we can now use similar trait-based approaches to understand and predict mosquito responses to environmental change. The aim of this project is to investigate the role of ecological traits, invasion status, and environmental factors in constraining the distribution and seasonality of insect vectors in temperate environments. The student will develop and apply novel statistical joint distribution models for communities across Europe, combining distribution and seasonality data from VectorNet (a European data-sharing Network, funded by ECDC and EFSA) with a traits database, to analyse whether species responses are linked to broad ecological traits like breeding site and host preferences and whether these responses vary with scale and invasion status. The student will then generate virtual species distributions with similar traits and invasion status and range of responses to environmental drivers to those of European mosquitoes, sampled with biased and unbiased recording effort. The resulting distributions will be analysed using alternative statistical single-species and community modelling algorithms to understand how distribution modelling for insect vectors might best account for dispersal limitation and biased recording effort. Finally the student will analyse the impact of mis-specifying mosquito distributions on the utility of such models for policy and in predictions of where mosquito-borne transmission will occur. Further Reading Ovaskainen, O. et al. How to make more out of community data? A conceptual framework and its implementation as models and software. Ecology Letters 20, 561-576, doi:10.1111/ele.12757 (2017). Golding, N., Nunn, M.A., & Purse, B.V. (2015). Identifying biotic interactions which drive the spatial distribution of a mosquito community. Parasites & vectors 8. Purse B.V., Golding, N. (2015) Tracking the distribution and impacts of diseases with biological records and distribution modelling. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 115, 664-677. Schaffner, F., Medlock, J. M. & Bortel, W. V. Public health significance of invasive mosquitoes in Europe. Clinical Microbiology and Infection 19, 685-692, doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/1469-0691.12189 (2013).
Beth Purse
Amanda Callaghan
Steven White, CEH, smwhit@ceh.ac.uk; William Wint, Oxford University + ERGO consultancy, william.wint@zoo.ox.ac.uk; Francis Schaffner, University of Zurich + Francis Schaffner consultancy, francis.schaffner@uzh.ch;
Development of mathematical theory, Computing, Quantitative data analysis, Ecological observations / data collection
Beth Purse
Development of new statistical joint distribution models of species communities (integrating environmental and trait data) Combining simulation modelling, high performance cluster computing and statistics to generate and analyse virtual species distributions (with similar ecological traits, invasion status, environmental responses and biased recording effort to European mosquitoes)
First cross-species, trait-based statistical analysis of mosquito distributions across Europe, adaptation of statistical joint distribution community models for ecological and recording characteristics of insect vectors, first analysis of impact of recording effort, dispersal limitation/invasion and ecological traits of insect vectors on the application of different SDM methods.
This PhD develops ecological theory for predicting the distribution and impacts of insect vector populations in degraded temperate environments. The cross-species, trait-based, multi-driver approach will lead to a more mechanistic understanding of why and where particular vectors and vector-borne diseases are increasing in impact.
Modelled distributions of mosquitoes are currently used by public health departments, mosquito control companies, and regional agencies like EFSA and ECDC to prioritise areas and vector species for mitigation. This project will develop more robust and transferable distribution models for these purposes by accounting for traits, invasion status, species interactions and biases in surveillance.
Academic beneficiaries, practitioners and policy-makers will gain (1)a clear understanding of how traits and invasion status modulate environmental responses of insect vectors to environmental change; (2)a recipe for which statistical tools are most robust for modelling insect vector distributions in different trait, invasion and surveillance data contexts; (3) tailored maps for focal vectors.
This project combines statistical and mathematical modelling, big data, epidemiology and mosquito biology. It also offers opportunities for knowledge exchange and co-development of output spatial tools with policy-makers because key industry practitioners with expertise in mosquito surveillance and risk mapping are involved as supervisors (providing linkage to EFSA/ECDC as key stakeholders).
Community ecology, Environment and health, Ecological/Evolutionary tools, technology & methods
Ecological and epidemiological theory relevant to mosquito communities and mosquito-borne diseases (all), statistical model development and fitting, handling large datasets (BP&WW), simulation modelling with high performance computing clusters (SW&BP). Through the industrial partners (WW&FS), experience of how ecological model outputs inform policy and can be tailored to the needs of stakeholders.
CEH Wallingford, Universities of Reading and Oxford. There will also be an opportunity to network with European researchers and policy-makers at VectorNet meetings and at the University of Switzerland and with other distribution modellers by engaging with the ZOON SDM initiative.
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