Taylor Kelly's Exit Seminar: Targeting Yellow Fever Mosquito and Pyrethroid Resistance

Remember back in 2013 when scientists verified the reintroduction of the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, in California? Infected mosquitoes can transmit such viruses as yellow fever,  dengue and Zika.

Alarm bells went off. Scientists joined forces to target the mosquito and stop it from spreading throughout the state.

Enter the UC Davis laboratory of medical entomologist-geneticist Geoffrey Attardo, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.  

And now, enter the exit seminar of doctoral candidate Erin "Taylor" Kelly of the Attardo lab.

She'll present a seminar on "Investigating the Metabolic Underpinnings of Pyrethroid Resistance in California Aedes aegypti" at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, June 8 in 366 Briggs Hall and also on Zoom.

"The world's primary arboviral vector, Aedes aegypti, was reintroduced into California in 2013," Kelly says in her abstract. "Its re-establishment throughout the state appears to be due, in part, to the failure of pyrethroid insecticides applied for adult mosquito control. My dissertation work examines 1) population dynamics within the state 2) how mosquito metabolism is impacted by pyrethroid exposure and 3) how a pyrethroid susceptible reference strain of Aedes aegypti differs physiologically from a wild California Ae. aegypti population. This research describes a successful story of ˆexclusion and generated novel hypotheses about the physiological underpinnings of the fitness costs and tradeoffs observed in insects withthepyrethroid resistance phenotype. Additionally, I explore novel targets for insecticide synergism."

UC Davis medical entomologist Anthony Cornel, who leads the Mosquito Control Research Laboratory in Parlier,  works with Taylor on insecticide resistance in mosquitoes. “Taylor's PhD project is challenging as she endeavors to tease apart the biochemical and genetic factors that cause resistance to some commonly used insecticides to control Aedes aegypti," wrote Cornel, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty.  "Ae. aegypti is considered the second most dangerous insect worldwide because of its role in transmission of dengue, yellow fever, Zika and Chikungunya viruses which cause considerable morbidity and mortality. Hence, it is an important organism to study especially to eventually improve measures to control this mosquito." 

Active in leadership activities and the Entomological Society of America, Kelly is president of the Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA), and served two terms as president of the UC Davis Equity in STEM and Entrepreneurship (ESTEME). She was a member of the UC Davis team that won the national Entomology Games championship in 2022. The UC Davis team included three other doctoral candidates from the Department of Entomology and Nematology: Zachary Griebenow of the Phil Ward lab, captain;  Jill Oberski of the Ward laboratory; and  Madison “Madi” Hendrick of the Ian Grettenberger lab. The event is a lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams. The question categories include biological control, behavior and ecology, economic and applied entomology, medical, urban and veterinary entomology, morphology and physiology, biochemistry and toxicology, systematics and evolution integrated pest management and insect/plant interactions. 

Other highlights of her years pursuing a doctorate at UC Davis include:

Kelly, who joined the Attardo lab in 2018, holds a bachelor of science degree in biology, with a minor in chemistry, from Santa Clara University, where she served as president of the campuswide Biology Club and led STEM projects, encouraging and guiding underrepresented students to seek careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

Her future plans? "I'm pursuing vector ecologist positions within California vector control programs!"

(Editor's Note: For the Zoom password, contact associate professor Geoffrey Attardo at gmattardo@ucdavis.edu or Taylor Kelly at etkelly@ucdavis.edu.)