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  1. Abstract Laboratory and field-based studies of the invasive mosquito Aedes albopictus demonstrate its competency to transmit over twenty different pathogens linked to a broad range of vertebrate hosts. The vectorial capacity of Ae. albopictus to transmit these pathogens remains unclear, partly due to knowledge gaps regarding its feeding behavior. Blood meal analyses from field-captured specimens have shown vastly different feeding patterns, with a wide range of anthropophagy (human feeding) and host diversity. To address this knowledge gap, we asked whether differences in innate host preference may drive observed variation in Ae. albopictus feeding patterns in nature. Low generation colonies (F2–F4) were established with field-collected mosquitoes from three populations with high reported anthropophagy (Thailand, Cameroon, and Florida, USA) and three populations in the United States with low reported anthropophagy (New York, Maryland, and Virginia). The preference of these Ae. albopictus colonies for human versus non-human animal odor was assessed in a dual-port olfactometer along with control Ae. aegypti colonies already known to show divergent behavior in this assay. All Ae. albopictus colonies were less likely (p < 0.05) to choose the human-baited port than the anthropophilic Ae. aegypti control, instead behaving similarly to zoophilic Ae. aegypti . Our results suggest that variation in reported Ae. albopictus feeding patterns are not driven by differences in innate host preference, but may result from differences in host availability. This work is the first to compare Ae. albopictus and Ae. aegypti host preference directly and provides insight into differential vectorial capacity and human feeding risk. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  3. Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution is a severe problem in the U.S. and worldwide. Best management practices (BMPs) have been widely used to control stormwater and reduce NPS pollution. Previous research has shown that socio-economic factors affect households’ adoption of BMPs, but few studies have quantitatively analyzed the spatio-temporal dynamics of household BMP adoption under different socio-economic conditions. In this paper, diverse regression approaches (linear, LASSO, support vector, random forest) were used on the ten-year data of household BMP adoption in socio-economically diverse areas of Washington, D.C., to model BMP adoption behaviors. The model with the best performance (random forest regression, R2 = 0.67, PBIAS = 7.2) was used to simulate spatio-temporal patterns of household BMP adoption in two nearby watersheds (Watts Branch watershed between Washington, D.C., and Maryland; Watershed 263 in Baltimore), each of which are characterized by different socio-economic (population density, median household income, renter rate, average area per household, etc.) and physical attributes (total area, percentage of canopy in residential area, average distance to nearest BMPs, etc.). The BMP adoption rate was considerably higher at the Watts Branch watershed (14 BMPs per 1000 housing units) than at Watershed 263 (4 BMPs per 1000 housing units) due to distinct differences in the watershed characteristics (lower renter rate and poverty rate; higher median household income, education level, and canopy rate in residential areas). This research shows that adoption behavior tends to cluster in urban areas across socio-economic boundaries and that targeted, community-specific social interventions are needed to reach the NPS control goal. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  4. Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution is a pressing issue worldwide, especially in the Chesapeake Bay, where sediment, nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) are the most critical water quality concerns. Despite significant efforts by federal, state, and local governments, the improvement in water quality has been limited. Investigating the spatial distribution of NPS hotspots can help understand NPS pollutant output and guide control measures. We hypothesize that as land cover changes from natural (e.g., forestland) and agricultural to suburban and ultra-urban, the distribution of NPS pollution source areas becomes increasingly spatially uniform. To test this hypothesis, we analyzed three real watersheds with varying land cover (Greensboro watershed for agriculture, Watts Branch watershed for suburban, and Watershed 263 for ultra-urban) and three synthetic watersheds developed based on the Watts Branch watershed, which ranged from forested and agricultural to ultra-urban but had the same soil, slope, and weather conditions. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was selected as a phenomenological model for the analysis, and SWAT-CUP was used for model calibration and validation. The hydrologic responses of the three real and synthetic watersheds were simulated over ten years (1993–2002 or 2002–2011), and calibration and validation results indicated that SWAT could properly predict the export of runoff and three target NPS pollution constituents (sediment, total nitrogen, and total phosphorus). The results showed that the distribution of NPS pollutant outputs becomes increasingly uniform as land cover changes from agriculture to ultra-urban across watersheds. This research suggests that the spatial distribution of NPS pollution source areas is a function of the major land cover category of study watersheds, and control strategies should be adapted accordingly. If NPS pollution is distributed unevenly across a watershed, hotspot areas output a disproportionate amount of pollution and require more targeted and intensive control measures. Conversely, if the distribution of NPS pollution is more uniform across a watershed, the control strategies need to be more widespread and encompass a larger area. 
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  5. The Asian tiger mosquito ( Aedes albopictus ) arrived in the USA in the 1980’s and rapidly spread throughout eastern USA within a decade. The predicted northern edge of its overwintering distribution on the East Coast of the USA roughly falls across New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, where the species has been recorded as early as 2000. It is unclear whether Ae. albopictus populations have become established and survive the cold winters in these areas or are recolonized every year. We genotyped and analyzed populations of Ae. albopictus from the northeast USA using 15 microsatellite markers and compared them with other populations across the country and to representatives of the major global genetic clades to investigate their connectivity and stability. Founder effects or bottlenecks were rare at the northern range of the Ae. albopictus distribution in the northeastern USA, with populations displaying high levels of genetic diversity and connectivity along the East Coast. There is no evidence of population turnover in Connecticut during the course of three consecutive years, with consistent genetic structure throughout this period. Overall, these results support the presence of established populations of Ae. albopictus in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, successfully overwintering and migrating in large numbers. Given the stability and interconnectedness of these populations, Ae. albopictus has the potential to continue to proliferate and expand its range northward under mean warming conditions of climate change. Efforts to control Ae. albopictus in these areas should thus focus on vector suppression rather than eradication strategies, as local populations have become firmly established and are expected to reemerge every summer. 
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  6. Plastic debris in aquatic and marine environments often breaks up into fragments that are smaller than 5 millimeters, which are then classified as microplastics. While there is not yet a standardized and validated methodology for characterizing microplastics, the protocol developed in this study uses methods for isolating and observing microplastics and for the investigation of how they interact with organisms present in biofilms from urban waterways. Project-based learning (PBL) has been proven to be a successful strategy in K–12 science education; the implementation of PBL provides opportunities for student-driven inquiry and provides teachers with a means to integrate curriculum with current research and to consider the effects of human impacts on the environment. This paper describes the protocol developed for high school teachers to educate students about microplastics and how to successfully isolate and observe them. Teachers and students in Maryland successfully isolated microplastics from biofilm samples from the Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland, and shared their results. International teachers and students in Barcelona, Spain, involved in a related project, had similar results and shared experiences through images, video, and online meetings. These collaborations provide important opportunities for student-driven inquiry and for them to engage in methods of current scientific research. 
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  7. (1) Background: Condition-specific competition, when the outcome of competition varies with abiotic conditions, can facilitate species coexistence in spatially or temporally variable environments. Discarded vehicle tires degrade to leach contaminants into collected rainwater that provide habitats for competing mosquito species. We tested the hypothesis that more highly degraded tires that contain greater tire leachate alters interspecific mosquito competition to produce a condition-specific advantage for the resident, Culex pipiens, by altering the outcome of competition with the competitively superior invasive Aedes albopictus. (2) Methods: In a competition trial, varying densities of newly hatched Ae. albopictus and Cx. pipiens larvae were added to tires that had been exposed to three different ultraviolet (UV)-B conditions that mimicked full-sun, shade, or no UV-B conditions in the field. We also measured Cx. pipiens and Ae. albopictus oviposition preference among four treatments with varying tire leachate (high and low) and resources (high and low) amounts to determine if adult gravid females avoided habitats with higher tire leachate. (3) Results: We found stronger competitive effects of Cx. pipiens on the population performance and survival of Ae. albopictus in tires exposed to shade and full-sun conditions that had higher concentrations of contaminants. Further, zinc concentration was higher in emergent adults of Ae. albopictus than Cx. pipiens. Oviposition by these species was similar between tire leachate treatments but not by resource amount. (4) Conclusions: These results suggest that degraded tires with higher tire leachate may promote condition-specific competition by reducing the competitive advantage of invasive Ae. albopictus over resident Cx. pipiens and, combined with Cx. pipiens’ preferential oviposition in higher resource sites, contribute to the persistence of the resident species. 
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    Condition-specific competition, when environmental conditions alter the outcome of competition, can foster the persistence of resident species after the invasion of a competitively superior invader. We test whether condition-specific competition can facilitate the areawide persistence of the resident and principal West Nile virus vector mosquito Culex pipiens with the competitively superior invasive Aedes albopictus in water from different urban container habitats. (2) Methods: We tested the effects of manipulated numbers of A. albopictus on C. pipiens’ survival and development in water collected from common functional and discarded containers in Baltimore, MD, USA. The experiment was conducted with typical numbers of larvae found in field surveys of C. pipiens and A. albopictus and container water quality. (3) Results: We found increased densities of A. albopictus negatively affected the survivorship and development of C. pipiens in water from discarded containers but had little effect in water from functional containers. This finding was driven by water from trash cans, which allowed consistently higher C. pipiens’ survival and development and had greater mean ammonia and nitrate concentrations that can promote microbial food than other container types. (4) Conclusions: These results suggest that the contents of different urban containers alter the effects of invasive A. albopictus competition on resident C. pipiens, that trash cans, in particular, facilitate the persistence of C. pipiens, and that there could be implications for West Nile virus risk as a result. 
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