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University students study mosquito control and viruses using drones

Posted: 5:32 AM, Jun 28, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-28 06:32:56-04

Students and professors at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi are dedicating their time to making sure no new viruses are found in South Texas mosquitoes. And, they are working with the Department of Engineering to find ways a drone can help mitigate the mosquito problem. 

Using Unmanned Aircraft Systems is just another way the University is trying find solutions to battle our mosquito issues. 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDAnPkaRVpI?rel=0&showinfo=0]

The Department of Life Sciences are collecting and testing different species of mosquitoes from all over the Coastal Bend. The study is a partnership between the city and county.  Knowing what species are out there and where they’re living is the best way to tackle any mosquito-born illness before they even begin. 

"Typically what we do is capture the mosquitoes. After capturing them, we then do an assessment and checking their DNA and seeing if their DNA has presence of this virus. Another way is turning up the mosquito and also seeing if that virus can infect cells and leaving those cells with viral  markers," said Dr. Xavier Gonzales, Assistant Professor, Department of Life Sciences. 

Finding ways to manage the mosquito numbers is also a challenge. 

"On the control side is being able to treat the adult mosquitoes for the larvicide. So some of the challenges that you can have on that is being able to have the man power to cover an entire region; and two, being able to reach all these different areas where mosquitoes can thrive," said Dr. Gonzales. 

The Department of Life Sciences is also working closely with the Department of Engineering to find ways Unmanned Aircraft Systems can help with mosquito control, like administrating pesticides from above.  

"Engineering is looking at Unmanned Aircraft Systems that can work on the control side, perhaps having an individual that can go out and spray in regions that are not able to reach. Like with any projects, funding is probably the major source that is the reason we don’t have it developed yet. The thing is, if we can get the funding out there, you can use the resources and ongoing research and just modify it to be able to attack this problem," said. Dr. Gonzales. 

The purpose of the whole program is to get out ahead of these diseases and find them before they become problems and make people and our livestock sick. 

This study is also helping students provide a service to the community while also furthering their careers.