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Tag: Courtney Murdock

Temperature drives Zika virus transmission: evidence from empirical and mathematical models


Temperature is a strong driver of vector-borne disease transmission. Yet, for emerging arboviruses we lack fundamental knowledge on the relationship between transmission and temperature. Current models rely on the untested assumption that Zika virus responds similarly to dengue virus, potentially limiting our ability to accurately predict the spread of Zika. We conducted experiments to estimate the thermal performance of Zika virus (ZIKV) in field-derived Aedes aegypti across eight constant temperatures. We observed strong, unimodal effects of temperature on vector competence, extrinsic incubation period and mosquito survival. We used thermal responses of these traits to update an existing temperature-dependent model to infer temperature effects on ZIKV transmission. ZIKV transmission was optimized at 29°C, and had a thermal range of 22.7°C–34.7°C. Thus, as temperatures move towards the predicted thermal optimum (29°C) owing to climate change, urbanization or seasonality, Zika could expand north and into longer seasons. By contrast, areas that are near the thermal optimum were predicted to experience a decrease in overall environmental suitability. We also demonstrate that the predicted thermal minimum for Zika transmission is 5°C warmer than that of dengue, and current global estimates on the environmental suitability for Zika are greatly over-predicting its possible range.

Blanka Tesla, Leah R. Demakovsky, Erin A. Mordecai, Sadie J. Ryan, Matthew H. Bonds, Calistus N. Ngonghala, Melinda A. Brindley, and Courtney C. Murdock. 2018. Proceedings of the Royal Society B; 285(1884):0962-8452.

Trainee Spotlight: Kerri Miazowicz

trainee Kerri Miazgowicz

Kerri Miazowicz is a 3rd year Ph.D. trainee in Courtney Murdock‘s laboratory. She grew up in southern Michigan where she received a B.S. in microbiology from Michigan State University in 2012. After graduation, she spent more than two years as a Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIH/NIAID in Montana with the Virus Ecology Unit within the Laboratory of Virology.

Choosing the University of Georgia

Kerri chose the University of Georgia for her graduate training because she wanted to conduct interdisciplinary research related to disease ecology and vector-borne disease transmission.

“UGA hosts many experts across several scientific disciplines allowing me to link molecular biology and individual level phenotypes to population-level dynamics,” said Kerri. ” UGA is also home to the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases and the Center for Ecology of Infectious Diseases (CEID), which both provide valuable research resources and expertise.”

Research Focus

Kerri’s research focuses on environmental drivers of mosquito-borne disease transmission. Mainly, understanding how the environment affects the mosquito vector and modeling the consequences of these interactions on transmission dynamics.

“My current project revolves around temperature effects on Anopheles stephensi [the primary mosquito that transmits malaria in Asia] trait performance (longevity, biting frequency, and population growth), and mathematically exploring the implications these effects have on transmission.”

She will also investigate how Plasmodium, the parasite that causes malaria, exposure and infection modify these mosquito traits which are critical in transmission events.

“I find vector-borne diseases interesting due to the immense complexity that these systems contain,” said Kerri. “I also find it interesting to think about ‘scaling-up’ the outcome of molecular interactions and individual phenotypes to the context of population-level dynamics.”

Kerri has been able to conduct fieldwork within the Athens area to study how microclimate across an urban area can influence mosquito development along with adult mosquito traits with are important for mosquito-borne disease transmission.

“If I was able to travel for research purpose, it would be to India or Africa, where malaria is endemic, to study local mosquito populations.”


trainee field work

Trainee Earns Accolades

Kerri has received a number of awards recognizing her academic and research achievements.  In 2009, she was named a 2008-2009 Regional Semifinalist for the Young Epidemiology Scholars (YES) Program. In 2010, Kerri was named a National Institutes of Health Undergraduate Scholar.

In 2014, she received an OITE Travel Award to attend the NIH Graduate and Professional School Fair, which allows NIH interns and postbacs to explore where the next step in their training will be.

Since coming to UGA, she has received an American Society of Virology Travel Award (2016) and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship that funds 3 years of research training. In 2017, she received a travel award to attend the annual meeting of the Vector Behavior Ecology Research Coordination Network (VectorBITE RCN) at Imperial College in London.

What’s Next

While Kerri has a few more years of training at UGA, she hopes to continue conducting scientific research related to disease ecology and transmission dynamics in either an academic or government setting.


Your financial gift to CTEGD funds the Training Innovations in Parasitologic Studies (TIPS) Fellowships which allows trainees like Kerri Miazowicz to travel to international field sites for research. Give Today!