Research in the Swale Lab centers on the neurophysiology, molecular physiology, and neurotoxicology of ion channels and transporters in insects and arachnids. Many species of arthropods have significant impacts on human health, animal health, and the economy and therefore, my research program aims to gain fundamental knowledge that we can apply to reduce the burden of arthropod pests and increase the health of beneficial insects. Brief overviews of active projects are described below.
1. Physiological characterization of novel proteins in the arthropod nervous system
My program has a heavy focus on mosquitoes since they are one of the most important vectors for spreading human diseases. To address the growing concern of insecticide resistance, my laboratory aims to identify future target sites for insecticides by identifying the physiological roles of newly discovered and unexplored ion channels and transporters in the nervous system of mosquitoes.
2. Physiological characterization of ion channels for tick salivary gland function
Ticks are obligate ectoparasites that are vectors of disease to both humans and animals of veterinary importance. The salivary gland is the site of osmoregulation in ticks, is critical to blood feeding, and is also the site of pathogen development. My laboratory is investigating ion conductance pathways and novel transporters that control salivary secretion, which may serve as a future target site to mitigate disease transmission.
3. Pollinator Health and Protection
Pollinator health is of current interest to the agricultural and scientific community due to the extreme economic benefit these insects provide combined with the unexplained losses that have been observed over the past decade. The Swale Lab, in collaboration with the USDA-ARS Bee Lab, is integrating a general understanding of bee biology with advanced physiological techniques to help improve overall colony health and productivity by identifying and characterizing novel physiological pathways that are likely to reduce stress, pathogen infection, and lipid loss.
4. Novel strategies for malaria control
The mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, is the vector of the malaria parasite and is considered to be the deadliest animal in the world. We received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to evaluate cost-effective attract and kill strategies for controlling populations of Anopheles gambiae in Sub-Saharan Africa that will subsequently reduce the morbidity and mortality of malaria.