Dr Nigel Beebe works in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland with a 50% position at the CSIRO. His research into the molecular evolution and genetics of mosquitoes in the Southwest Pacific region delivers fundamental knowledge into the role mosquitoes play in mosquito-borne disease. This research moves across both basic and applied research in vector biology and has advanced our understanding of mosquitoes, their evolution, species’ distribution and role in mosquito-borne disease. At a fundamental level this work has answered important questions about which mosquito species transmit disease pathogens, where they exist and why they are there, including how these populations connect and move.
This work has lead to new research in develpoing novel technologies for mosquito control. For example, recent field trials using a Wolbachia carrying sterile/incompatible male releases in northern Queensland provided strong population supression of dengue mosquito Aedes aegypti. New research funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will have us develop a gene-drive malaria refractory Anopheles farauti which is an important amalaria vector in our Pacific region.
For more detail on my research please see http://www.nigelbeebe.com
I work across three main mosquito systems responsible for mosquito-borne disease to humans, while also providing a fabulous framework to study evolution in action.
1) Malaria vectors of our region: only a small subset of our Anopheles species biodiversity transmit human malaria so our work revolves around describing exactly which species are important malaria vectors. Then we focus down on describing their molecular evolution, distribution, biology and ecology throughout our Pacific region to assist focused mosquito control
2) Exotic urban arbovirus vectors and biosecurity threats: these Aedes species include the dengue vector Aedes aegypti which is endemic to many Queensland towns and presents a major biosecurity threat to urban Australia. Also the invasive Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus is now in the Torres Strait islands and presents a serious incursion threat to mainland Australia. Our research involves addressing these threats by investigating the incursion origins and movement of these invasive species. We are also developing novel species-specific population suppression tools based on releasing sterile/incompatible male mosquitoes for population suppression. Successful proof of concept field trials suppressing Aedes aegypti in northern Australia were completed in 2018-19.
3) Endemic arbovirus vectors and biosecurity threats to Australia: these Culex species include Australia’s major endemic arbovirus vectors responsible for transmission of most of our endemic arbovirus as well as the exotic Japanese encephalitis virus incursion threat in northern Australia. Evolutionary and population genetics approaches are currently being used to tease out the cryptic species’ status of this group, develop molecular diagnostics and better understand arbovirus transmission and future risks in our region.