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.

To find a particular PI's email or look up other PI details, use the menu at the top of this page (PIs tab).

A Cacophony or a Chorus?: The role of sound in the coordination of mosquito mating swarms
Mosquito-borne diseases are thought to directly impact the well-being and livelihood of at least one-third of the human population. Our ability to control mosquito-borne diseases heavily relies on reducing mosquito populations. However, the growing incidence of insecticide resistance threatens current control tools. Several new strategies will involve the release of laboratory-reared males which will need to compete successfully with wild males for mates. Thus, these new strategies will be greatly facilitated by an improved understanding of the determinants of male mosquito mating success. Like many other members of the order Diptera, mosquitoes mate in aerial swarms. Swarming is initiated by males which make up the majority of swarm participants with females entering in much smaller numbers. It remains unclear whether these swarms are an example of collective behaviour. Recent work in Anopheles mosquitoes suggest that movements are coordinated between nearest neighbours, but the extent to which swarm dynamics are emergent properties of these interactions is still debated. More recent work on Aedes mosquito acoustic interactions and male hearing mechanisms suggest that males are likely communicating with one another and with females within swarms. The degree to which these acoustic emissions are the result isolated interactions (a cacophony) or a method of coordination (a chorus) are unclear. This project focuses on exploring these acoustic interactions, their relationship with individual and swarm movement characteristics, and ultimately how these dynamics shape the mating success of the Yellow Fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. This species is both an important arbo-virus vector and one of the main targets of reproductive control releases. In the first year, the student will work with experts in sound engineering and data science to develop tools for tracking free-flying mosquito movements and acoustic emissions. As a key part of the project we will develop novel methods for delivering playbacks to swarming individuals. We will then go on to apply these tools to test the degree that sound is used in communication between individuals and whether this communication is important for swarm formation and coordination using a combination of swarm simulation work and experimental manipulation of swarm acoustic environments. Throughout we will test both evolutionary and mechanistic hypotheses that may explain why these aggregations form. We take advantage of the unique environment offered by Imperial College London to tackle the technical and biological challenges this system presents. The student will be co-supervised by Dr. Lauren Cator (Department of Life Sciences), Dr. Lorenzo Picilani (Dyson School of Engineering), and Dr. Data Science (Department of the Data Science). Key References: Attanasi et al. 2014. Collective behaviour without collective order in wild swarms of midges. PLoS Computational Biology. 10 (7): 1-10. Shelly and Whittier. 1997. Lek behaviour of insects. In: The Evolution of Mating Systems in Insects and Arachnids. Eds. Choe and Crespi. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK. Shishika et al. 2014. Male motion coordination in anopheline mating swarms. Scientific Reports. 4: 6318. Aldersley et al. 2017. Emergent acoustic order in arrays of mosquitoes. Current Biology. 27 (22): R1208-1210.
Lauren Cator
Lorenzo Picinali
Robert Endres, Imperial College London
Development of mathematical theory, Computing, Quantitative data analysis, Ecological observations / data collection
Lorenzo Picinali
Both the development of the tracking systems and using the “big” data produced by them to address hypotheses are quantitative. Specifically, the project will require likely require the development and implementation of tracking algorithms and the development and validation of swarm simulations. Depending on the progress we also plan to incorporate modelling of collective behaviours (Endres)
Previous work has used algorithms to track movements in swarm and developed models for swarm dynamics. This will be the first attempt to connect this movement analyses with acoustic analysis and incorporate this velocity/frequency relationship into such models.
While the formation of the swarms might be plausibly explained by a “hot spot” scenario, the coordination of males within the swarm currently lacks any evolutionary explanation. In other types of aggregations collective behaviour is used to increase detection probability. We will test to see if this can explain the adaptive value of swarming for individual males.
A better understanding of acoustic communication within swarms has potential to be sued to develop mating disruption strategies.
Collective behaviour is a developing field and this “special” case has potential to very informative for general theory in this area. The project could also transform our understanding of collective behaviour in non-social insects in the context of mating aggregations.
The project will require a joint effort from biology, engineering, and data science. There is potential to advance all three of these fields.
Behavioural ecology, Environment and health
Depending on student background training in swarm modelling or mosquito biology may be required. Dr. Cator can supply any training in mosquito biology required. Dr. Picanili can provide training in acoustic recording and playback methodology. Prof. Enders will offer training in modelling of collaborative behaviours and signals.
Silwood Park and South Kensington
2019-05-28 17:23:20