Associate Professor Nigel Beebe

Associate Professor

School of the Environment
Faculty of Science
n.beebe@uq.edu.au
+61 7 336 52466

Overview

As a teaching and research academic within the School of the Environment at the University of Queensland, I research the biology and genetics of mosquitoes in our region of the Indo-Pacific that delivers fundamental knowledge into the role mosquitoes play in mosquito-borne disease. This work moves across basic and applied research and has advanced our understanding of mosquitoes, their evolution, species’ distributions, permitting better focused mosquito control to be imagined. More recent research involves exploring new environmentally friendly biological control tools such as using the Wolbachia bacterium and genetic modification to combat mosquito-borne disease.

For more detail on my research please see below and at this link http://www.nigelbeebe.com

Research Interests

  • 4) Biological control of mosquitoes
    Two species-specific mosquito control initiatives are now in development. The first initiative utilises reproductively incompatible Wolbachia-infected male mosquitoes for population suppression was supported through NHMRC and Verily Life Science. successful proof of concept field trials were performed in 2018 in north Queensland towns. The second initiative sees our team exploring the idea of a malaria resistant Anopheles mosquito for our region using CRISPR-Cas9 gene-drive tools. This work is currently supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and NHMRC.
  • Mosquito Biology and Evolution
    At a fundamental level, research outcomes from my team continue to answer important questions about which mosquito species transmit disease pathogens to humans, where they exist, why they are there and how their populations connect and move. This work has led to more recent applied research outcomes that address issues of mosquito control in the Indo-Pacific and beyond by developing new biological control tools. For example, we are exploring the use of sterile/incompatible males to reduce and remove exotic Aedes species (vectors dengue, chikungunya Zika and yellow fever) and the potential for developing gene-drive carrying malaria refractory Anopheles species as a tool for future malaria control. I feel we are at the beginning of an exciting journey in developing new mosquito control tools for Australia, the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. New funding opportunities have now been secured through Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and NHMRC. There are four research themes which constitute my past, present and future research
  • 1) Malaria vectors of our region
    Anopheles mosquitoes (malaria vectors): this work revolves around describing the evolution, distribution, biology and behaviour of malaria vectors throughout our Pacific region. This work has led to new opportunities to explore the use of synthetic biology to develop a malaria resistant mosquito for the Indo-Pacific (detailed in #4 below).
  • 2) Exotic urban arbovirus vectors and biosecurity threats
    The dengue vector Aedes aegypti is endemic to Queensland but presents a major biosecurity threat to the rest of Australia while the exotic invasive Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus has arrived in the Torres Strait from Indonesia and now presents a serious incursion threat to mainland Australia. Our research involves addressing these threats by better understanding their historic and contemporary movement and developing novel biological control population suppression tools (detailed in #4 below).
  • 3) Endemic arbovirus vectors and biosecurity threats
    Culex mosquito species include Australia’s major endemic arbovirus vectors including Ross River virus, Barmah Forrest virus as well as the recent explosion of Japanese encephalitis through inland Australia in 2022. Evolutionary and population genetics approaches are providing vital information on the vector species status and the development molecular diagnostics to study these cryptic mosquito species in our region.

Research Impacts

From my development of the first molecular tools to study the many cryptic mosquito species during my PhD, I have been fortunate to have grown the field of vector biology, genetics and now vector control across three decades, acting as a crucial reference point for this work in Australasia and the Indo-Pacific region. Below are two examples of the ongoing evolution of fundamental scientific research and speaks to the exciting space where baseline information intersects with the frontiers of innovation and imagination.

One exciting impact and outcome was in determining exactly which mosquito species in our region transmit malaria because they exist as many isomorphic cryptic species that require molecular diagnostic to distinguish each species. Through a productive multi-decade collaboration with the Australian Defense Force, we determined the subset of malaria vector species in our region, from the many non-vector species, mapped their spatial distribution through the Indo-Pacific using over 1700 regional sampling sites, and are now describing their population genetics/genomics structures and gene flow barriers through this region. This fantastic resource is feeding new ways to think about mosquito control including exploring the use of genetic modification and gene drive technologies as environmentally friendly species-specific mosquito control.

The second research impact was in the developing a reproductively incompatible male release population suppression technology for the dengue mosquito Aedes aegypti. As males don’t bite they can be safely be released on mass, and making them incompatible (essentially sterile) with a naturally occuring Wolbachia bacterium provided the tool to execute a proof of concept treatment/control field trial in small towns in the Queensland Cassowary coast in north Queensland during the first few months of 2018 (called “Debug Innisfail”). In releasing 3 million males over 20 weeks we saw between 80-90% Ae. aegypti adult suppression in our treatment vs control landscapes and the suppression effect was observes the next season in two of the three treatment towns. Now thanks to NHMRC we are now developing this technology into a more deployable product.

Publications

  • Cosme, Luciano Veiga, Corley, Margaret, Johnson, Thomas, Severson, Dave W., Yan, Guiyun, Wang, Xiaoming, Beebe, Nigel, Maynard, Andrew, Bonizzoni, Mariangela, Khorramnejad, Ayda, Martins, Ademir Jesus, Lima, José Bento Pereira, Munstermann, Leonard E., Surendran, Sinnathamby N., Chen, Chun-Hong, Maringer, Kevin, Wahid, Isra, Mukherjee, Shomen, Xu, Jiannon, Fontaine, Michael C., Estallo, Elizabet L., Stein, Marina, Livdahl, Todd, Scaraffia, Patricia Y., Carter, Brendan H., Mogi, Motoyoshi, Tuno, Nobuko, Mains, James W., Medley, Kim A. ... Caccone, Adalgisa (2024). A genotyping array for the globally invasive vector mosquito, Aedes albopictus. Parasites and Vectors, 17 (1) 106. doi: 10.1186/s13071-024-06158-z

  • Ambrose, Luke, Allen, Scott L., Iro’ofa, Charlie, Butafa, Charles and Beebe, Nigel W. (2024). Genetic and geographic population structure in the malaria vector, Anopheles farauti, provides a candidate system for pioneering confinable gene-drive releases. Heredity, 132 (5), 1-15. doi: 10.1038/s41437-024-00677-2

  • Craig, Adam T., Panda, Nixon, Palapu, Rudgard, Oku, Geoffrey, Lifoia, Clement, Tatalu, Joanna, Beebe, Nigel, Kelly, Gerard, Kama Jr, Nathan, Iro’ofa, Charlie and Bugoro, Hugo (2024). Citizen Science for Enhanced Dengue Vector Surveillance in Solomon Islands: A Methods Paper. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, 9 (1), 1-13. doi: 10.5334/cstp.679

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Supervision

View all Supervision

Publications

Book Chapter

  • McFadden, Andrew, Mackereth, Graham, Kleinpaste, Ruud, Sanson, Robert, Beebe, Nigel, Gradwell, Bryn, Bullians, Mark and Frampton, Ruth (2013). Pathways of entry and mosquito dispersal. Mosquito eradication: the story of killing "Campto". (pp. 111-136) edited by Brian H. Kay and Richard Charles Russell. Collingwood, VIC, Australia: CSIRO Publishing.

  • Beebe, Nigel W., Russell, Tanya L., Burkot, Thomas R., Lobo, Neil F. and Cooper, Robert D. (2013). The systematics and bionomics of malaria vectors in the southwest Pacific. Anopheles mosquitoes: new insights into malaria vectors. (pp. 375-394) edited by Sylvia Manguin. Rijeka, Croatia: InTech. doi: 10.5772/55999

  • Beebe, Nigel W., Cooper, Robert D., Mottram, Pipi and Sweeney, Anthony W. (2011). Australia’s dengue risk: Human adaptation to climate change. Recent Advances and Issues in Environmental Science. (pp. 132-145) edited by William Hunter III. New York, NY, United States: Apple Academic Press. doi: 10.1201/b12230

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Completed Supervision