At the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, biologist Jolene Sutton and her students are developing genetic technologies, that work as mosquito birth control, to help control invasive mosquitoes in Hawaiʻi.
“The project that they’re working on right now is starting the process to evaluate and also develop new emerging technologies for controlling invasive mosquitoes here in Hawaiʻi,” said Sutton. “My undergraduate students in our class are learning how to genetically engineer or genetically modify mosquitoes.”
Jared Nishimoto, a graduate student in the tropical conservation biology and environmental science program who is training undergraduates, explains that students conduct the process by lining up mosquito eggs on a microscope slide for microinjections.
“We have a very small, almost microscopic needle where we pierce the eggs and inject a solution with a certain gene of interest that we want to be integrated and expressed into the mosquitoes,” said Nishimoto.
Mosquito vector diseases are not something that native species in Hawaiʻi have ever experienced in their evolutionary histories.
“And so particularly our native bird species have never had any selective pressures, they’ve never had any opportunities to develop an immune response to the types of diseases that mosquitoes vector,” said Sutton.
Students are excited because they are learning new cutting-edge technologies that can help them get jobs in fields like biotechnology and conservation.
“But our students are also really excited about this type of research because of the impacts that it could have to the local community here in Hawaiʻi,” said Sutton.
The video was produced by Leah Sherwood, a graduate student in the tropical conservation biology and environmental science program at UH Hilo. The videographer is Raiatea Arcuri, a professional photographer majoring in business at UH Hilo.