Olivia Winokur: Targeting the Yellow Fever Mosquito

If you've been following the statewide news on the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes ageypti, you'll want to hear a seminar by Olivia Winokur on Wednesday, Oct. 5.

Winokur, a UC Davis doctoral candidate and vector-borne disease specialist who studies with major professor Chris Barker, will present her exit seminar, hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 5 in 122 Briggs Hall.

She'll discuss "Temperature Drives Transmission of Mosquito-borne Pathogens: Improving Entomological Estimates for Aedes aegypti-borne Virus Transmission Risk." Her seminar will be both in-person and virtual. The Zoom link: https://ucdavis.zoom.us/j/95882849672.

"The mosquito Aedes aegypti is the primary vector of a range of viruses that cause a major burden on human health worldwide, including dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever viruses," Winokur writes in her abstract. "As the Zika epidemic emerged in 2016, estimates for Zika risk were based on proxy evidence from closely related dengue virus. To improve risk estimates, we studied how temperature affects Zika virus extrinsic incubation period. We sought to further improve risk estimates by studying thermal preferences of Ae. aegypti mosquitoes in the laboratory and in the field. Current mosquito-borne pathogen risk models primarily use temperatures from weather stations or thermal imagery as a proxy for the temperatures mosquitoes experience, however such approaches do not account for local environments or microclimates available to adult mosquitoes. Taken together, the results of these studies can be used to improve prediction of mosquito-borne pathogen risk and inform mosquito control decisions." (See information on the mosquito on the California Department of Public Health website)

A doctoral student at UC Davis since 2016, Winokur is studying for her PhD in entomology with a designated emphasis in the biology of vector-borne diseases. She will submit her dissertation in October and officially graduate then, "although I participated in the doctoral ceremony in June," she related. "I will be a postdoc in the Barker lab working with VectorSurv (https://vectorsurv.org/), and also have a PacVec postdoctoral fellowship (https://pacvec.us/) to dedicate 25 percent of my time to "Enriching Practical Learning Resources for Entomological, Medical, and One-Health Curricula.'

Olivia received her bachelor's degree in May of 2015 from Cornell University where she was an interdisciplinary studies major (environmental effects on human health).

At UC Davis, Winokur served as the 2019-2020 president of the Entomology Graduate Student Association and as a 2020-2022 committee member of the UC Davis Entomology Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging. She co-founded the Girls' Outdoor Adventure in Leadership and Science (GOALS) in 2017 and continues to serve in leadership roles. GOALS is a free two-week summer science program for high school girls and gender expansive youth from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM fields. They learn science, outdoors skills, and leadership hands-on while backpacking in Sequoia National Park.

In academic leadership, Winokur co-developed a Stanford course in 2019 on "How Vector-Borne Diseases Have Shaped Human History" and co-developed a syllabus and mentored students. She also co-developed a UC Davis course (2019, 2019, 2020) with other entomology graduate students on "The Natural History of Insects." She has served as both a teaching assistant and lecturer, as well as a mentor.

Active in the vector-borne disease community, Winokur completed a 2019-2020 term as the Executive Council student representative for the American Committee on Medical Entomology (ACME) and as a 2017-2019 volunteer with the Vector-Borne Disease Section of the California Department of Public Health, where she assisted with hantavirus and plague surveillance.   She peer-reviews manuscripts for the Journal of Medical Entomology.

Winokur is the recipient of numerous fellowships and grants, including a $140,00 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship; a $30,000 Pacific Southwest Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases Graduate Fellowship;   a $25,000 Pacific Southwest Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases Postdoctoral Fellowship; a Professors for the Future Fellowship (UC Davis) of $3,000; and two-consecutive Hazeltine Student Research Awards (UC Davis), totaling  $5,500. She also received an American Geophysical Union Centennial Grant of $9,720 and an American Association for University Women Community Action Grant of $5,000 (outreach grants).

Winokur's latest peer-reviewed publications include co-authoring "The Influence of Vector-borne Disease on Human History: Socio-Ecological Mechanisms" in the journal Ecology Letters; and serving as the lead author of "Impact of Temperature on the Extrinsic Incubation Period of Zika Virus in Aedes aegypti in the journal PLOS (Public Library of Science): Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Emily Meineke, assistant professor of urban landscape entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, coordinates the department's seminars for the 2022-23 academic year. All 11 seminars will take place both person and virtually at 4:10 p.m. on Wednesdays in Room 122 of Briggs Hall except for the Nov. 9th and Dec. 7th seminars, which will be virtual only, she said.  (See list of seminars)

For further information on the seminars or technical difficulties with Zoom, contact Meineke at ekmeineke@ucdavis.edu