Sampling mosquitos in Thailand

Join fly researcher Erica McAlister in this video to get a glimse of life in the field as she samples mosquitoes in Thailand.

Extreme weather, stomach upsets and a distinct lack of mosquitos are just a few of the obstacles Erica and the team face on their quest to find flavivirus carrying mosquitoes in northern Thailand.

The project

Erica McAlister in northern Thailand.

Erica McAlister in northern Thailand.

Erica and her colleagues, Shelley Cook and Ralph Harbach, travel to Thailand to collect as many different species of mosquito as possible to study the flaviviruses that they carry. Flaviviruses cause diseases such as yellow fever and dengue. The team take samples from four different habitats, urban, forest, scrub and rice fields to increase their chances of finding different species.

Once the mosquito specimens are back at the Natural History Museum, the team extract their genetic material to find out which species they are, as well as through morphological taxonomy (identifying body characteristics, like the genitalia).

Collecting expeditions like this one are vital for enhancing the Museum's collections. Although the Museum has the best mosquito collection in the world, only half the described species are represented. The more complete the collection the more scientists are able to understand the relationship between mosquitos and their associated viruses, and ultimately the spread of disease.

This project is funded by the Wellcome Trust with the support of the Museum.

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Erica McAlister, Curator of Diptera, and her colleagues on fieldwork

What happens behind the scenes in the Museum's Life Sciences Department? Curator Erica McAlister has about 30,000 species of fly to look after, and fieldwork trips at home and abroad. Her life is never dull!

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