Ashley Zechman ’12 is investigating the breeding habits of several species of mosquitoes in the region with Dr. Christopher Binckley, Assistant Professor of Biology. In addition to contributing to an ongoing study, her research will serve as part of her Senior Capstone project.
Understanding how invasive species respond to methods used to control their population growth is crucial given their negative effects on native species. The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), an abundant species in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, exemplifies this, as it is also a known disease vector for both wildlife and humans. Zechman is investigating whether this species shows breeding preferences for sites containing different plant species, the results of which will be used as part of an ongoing study.
Zechman spent the summer determining Asian tiger mosquitoes' preference to three plant species. She created 20 breeding sites on the Tacomy Creek using two foreign grass species which have become invasive in the United States: Microstegium vimineum (Japanese Stiltgrass) and Phalaris arundinacea (Reed Canary Grass), and one native grass, Leersia oryzoides (Rice Cutgrass), which occurs in wetlands and swamps.
"Because two of the three grass species are invasive, I believe the mosquitoes will have a higher tendency to breed where these plants occur," says Zechman. "This would support the Ecological Meltdown hypothesis, that invasive species tend to facilitate each other in new areas leading to the eventual take-over of the new habitat."
Initially introduced to a similar project when she took Research Methods with Binckley in 2009, Zechman elected to continue on with the research after the course concluded. She currently is in the process of applying to Arcadia's Physical Therapy program.
“One of the very best things that Arcadia offers its students is the opportunity to conduct state-of-the-art research one-on-one with our gifted faculty,” said President Carl (Tobey) Oxholm III.
“Here, discovery and innovation are not just read about in books—they are experienced with the hands and a mentor. These experiences prepare our students well for graduate schools and careers and help to ensure that our country will have creative minds eager to take on new challenges. But these experiences also create informed citizens, as our students know firsthand how difficult true scientific inquiry is and are better able to evaluate and participate in public discourse about scientific issues that will have local, national and global significance in the coming decades.”