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Biology Professor and Student Travel to Costa Rica to Launch Research Pilot Study

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Posted on Monday, August 14, 2017

Over the summer, Dr. Diana Ortiz, Assistant Professor of Biology, and junior environmental science major Tia Kowalo traveled to Costa Rica to conduct a research pilot study. Ortiz and Kowalo collaborated with with Dr. Laura Sirot from The College of Wooster (Ohio) and Dr. Adriana Troyo from the University of Costa Rica (UCR) in San Jose to complete the study.

Ortiz says the overall purpose of the study was to determine the host feeding preferences of mosquito species collected at the Lomas Barbudal Biological Preserve. According to Ortiz, several mosquito-borne pathogens occur in Costa Rica, including dengue, Zika, and chikungunya viruses. 

"Very little information exists on the ecological interactions between mosquitoes, pathogens, and their hosts," reported Ortiz. "The data generated in this pilot study can help to establish a baseline for future studies on the ecological dynamics of mosquito-borne disease transmission."

The research team spent their first few days at UCR, where they were invited by Dr. Troyo and colleagues to give seminars on their research project. The rest of their time was spent collecting, identifying, and conducting host DNA analysis of blood-fed mosquitoes at the Preserve, located near the city of Bagaces in northern Costa Rica. Part of the project and travel funds were provided to Dr. Ortiz and Tia by the Van Vranken Summer Research Experience Award, sponsored by College's Biology Program.

For more information, contact Tom Fields at or 724-946-7190