1) Quantifying and characterizing the Chagas disease parasite burden in kissing bug vectors across land use change gradients

Rhodnius pallescens, principal vector of Chagas disease in Panama

Mentors: Dr. Nicole Gottdenker and Juliana Hoyos
Abstract: Anthropogenic environmental change has been associated with the emergence of zoonotic vector borne pathogens. In this project, the REU scholar will investigate how parasite burden with the Chagas disease agent Trypanosoma cruzi varies in kissing bug vectors collected across different gradients of deforestation and reforestation in rural areas of central Panama. The student will learn laboratory methods in molecular detection of trypanosomes in kissing bugs and will also apply statistical methods to investigate how land cover, bug abundance, microclimate, stage, and bug population characteristics relate to parasite burden in the bugs. 
Is the project computational, empirical, or both? Both.