Quantifying the dispersal capacity of Anopheline vectors in an area of heterogeneous malaria transmission

The project will quantify and estimate dispersal rates of Anopheline vectors in southern Malawi using both laboratory and field-based experimental approaches. These estimates will be combined with environmental data and theoretical modelling to determine barriers to mosquito movement, exchange of gene flow at the village-level and the impact of vector control on dispersal.

The project is offered by Dr Christopher Jones and Dr Lisa Reimer at Foto-Cewek in collaboration with Dr Luigi Sedda at Lancaster University.


Where does this project lie in the translational pathway? 

T1 – Basic Research in Medecine

T2 Human / Clinical Research in Medecine



The project will estimate the effective dispersal range of the main malaria vectors in the Chikwawa district of southern Malawi. These estimates will be combined with ongoing geospatial analyses of malaria transmission and other entomological parameters to calculate geographical scales in which to direct current interventions (e.g. ITNs, larval source management) and optimise disease reduction. The outputs will feed into planned Integrated Vector Management (IVM) (communicated by Jones based at MLW, Blantyre) as part of the National Malaria Strategy 2017-2022 in Malawi.


The methodological aspects of the PhD project?

The project will have a strong quantitative component requiring training using multiple dataset types (e.g. entomological count data, environmental parameters, spatial sampling) as well as hands-on entomological fieldwork.  


Expected outputs of the PhD project?

The outputs from the project will:

  1. Assess the viability of field-based experimental tools to empirically estimate vector dispersal.
  2. Determine the effective dispersal range of local Anopheles malaria vectors in an area of well-defined heterogeneous malaria transmission in southern Malawi (Chikwawa).
  3. Build on current geospatial models of malaria transmission and entomological parameters to define explicit spatial units in which to target current vector control interventions.

The long-term goal of the Vector Biology programme at MLW is to improve the implementation of national targeted vector control interventions. The results from this work will therefore feed directly into longer term funding applications exploring the relationship between vector movement and disease transmission in multiple vector-host systems and in different ecological environments. Direct estimates of vector dispersal have been made in only a limited number of species and environments and the project should yield at least two publications in international journals (a methods-based and a research-based publication).


What external industry links or training opportunities will be available for the student

The PhD candidate will have the opportunity of working alongside and receive training from entomological teams in Malawi (e.g. National Malaria Control Programme).


Required skills/experience/aptitudes

Sound analytical, data management and data interpretation skills.

Comfortable working in unfamiliar environment

Some experience of working with invertebrates/animal movement desirable.


Key publications that relate to this proposed project


Killeen GF et al. (2003) Lancet Infectious Diseases 3: 297-303


Midega JT et al. (2012) Nature Communications 3: 674 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1672


Rodgers D & Sedda L (2012) Parasitology 139, 1852-1869  doi:10.1017/S0031182012001345