Lexie Beckermann is the July TERFer on Team Mosquito. Her team has many ongoing research projects, but one of particular focus now is a study on how an invasive treehole mosquito (originally native to Japan) might influence the success of a parasite that enters a native treehole mosquito to complete its life cycle. If the invasive mosquito can internalize the parasite but does not have the right conditions to let the parasite grow, then the presence of the invasive mosquito might actually be beneficial to the native mosquito by decreasing the population growth rate of the parasite.
To test this, the team has set up buckets with different levels of resources that either include or exclude the invasive mosquito. They sample the buckets weekly and identify the larvae of the mosquitoes in each bucket to determine population sizes. Since her arrival, Lexie has been learning how to identify mosquito larvae under a microscope.
She seems to be enjoying herself. At the end of the project, the team will destructively sample the buckets, collecting adult mosquitoes and dissecting them to see how many contain parasites. Just one interesting project coming out of Team Mosquito's summer work.
This educational collaboration between Washington University's Tyson Research Center and the Missouri Botanical Garden's Shaw Nature Reserve is designed to engage St. Louis area high school students in scientifically-based exploration of the natural world. Linked programs of field training (SIFT) and field research (TERF) provide teenagers with experiences that realistically reflect research in environmental biology. Participating teens learn a variety of field investigation skills and then have the opportunity to put those new skills to work assisting career scientists with real research projects.