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West Nile Virus Experts

West Nile Virus Experts at UC Riverside

Valuable Media Resources at UC Riverside

(June 15, 2004)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — University of California, Riverside scientists are a good source of information about West Nile virus, which emerged in the New York City area in 1999. Although health officials hoped the virus would not survive the first winter, in early spring 2000 it re-emerged in birds and mosquitoes and spread steadily westward.

In 2002, the virus was detected in California and has mostly affected the Southern California counties of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino, where a woman was infected earlier this year. Faculty members can answer media questions about the disease, its spread and effects on both human and wildlife populations.

  • Tom Scott, adjunct assistant professor of conservation biology, Department of Earth Science
    Office: (951) 827-5115

    Tom Scott is tracking the movements of the virus throughout the state of California. He has developed a Web site for reporting both dead birds and the movements of crows, which are an excellent host for the virus.

    “It’s important to know where the birds are dying — it tells us something about where the virus is,” Scott said. But knowing where crows are living, roosting, and what routes they regularly use, may give an early warning about where the virus will move.

    The public can log dead bird finds and report crow sightings at

    His academic specialties include wildlife conservation in fragmented and altered landscapes, including studies of wildlife movement, habitat use, and population biology in oak woodland, sage scrub, and riparian habitats. He also studies the behavioral changes and adjustments in habitat use of woodland bird species in response to human activities, and the conservation and management of island bird species through captive propagation, predator control, and habitat restoration.

  • Peter W. Atkinson, Professor, Department of Entomology
    Office: (951) 827-4782
    Lab: (951) 827-3629

    Peter Atkinson can speak to the efforts being made to genetically alter mosquitoes such as Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus, so that they can no longer transmit the virus. The overall goal of his research is to develop molecular-based strategies to genetically control pest insects. His laboratory focuses on transposable elements of DNA, since they are the only means by which foreign DNA can be introduced into insects and be inherited over successive generations. Atkinson’s lab is also using this approach to disable the means by which mosquitoes spread malaria and yellow fever.

    Funding for research projects in Atkinson’s laboratory comes from the National Institutes of Health, AID; the National Institutes of Health, GM, and the University of California Mosquito Research Program.

  • Mir S. Mulla, Distinguished Professor, Department of Entomology
    Office: (951) 827-5818, -3640
    Lab: (951) 827-2357

    Mir S. Mulla does research on insects affecting human health. He finds practical control strategies for mosquitoes, eye quats, nuisance aquatic midges and other insects of public health concern. Mulla’s research activity addresses pest and Vector insect problems in California and at the international scene.

    He researches the development of new microbial control agents, and the simulation of field conditions and natural breeding sites of mosquitoes in California and Southeast Asia. Small-scale and large-scale field trials are underway in collaboration with the World Health Organization and institutions in developing countries. Also underway is research on management of resistance in mosquitoes to microbial larvicides, which emphasizes the prevention of resistance.

  • William Walton, associate professor of entomology
    Office: (951) 827-3919

    William Walton’s expertise is in mosquito ecology and mosquito production from man-made wetlands used for water quality improvement from such sources as storm water, municipal wastewater, and agricultural wastewater.

    Natural and constructed wetlands can be important developmental sites for mosquitoes. Multipurpose wetlands are being constructed to recycle precious water resources in Southern California, to create habitat for wildlife, and to provide recreational activities for the ever-increasing human population in the region.

    The development of effective mosquito abatement programs that protect the encroaching human population from disease and from nuisance biting of mosquitoes is necessary. A major emphasis of work in Walton’s laboratory is the design and implementation of novel and practical management strategies for wetland mosquitoes.

  • Thomas Meixner, assistant professor of hydrology and water resources, Department of Environmental Sciences.
    Office phone: (951) 827-2356

    Thomas Meixner’s research touches on the disease’s relationship to irrigation runoff, such as car washing, agricultural runoff and water in yards that provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

    His research focuses on improving field techniques of measurement and incorporating the information revealed by these measurements into models of watershed water quality. The majority of his research has been conducted in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and the Sierra Nevada and San Bernardino Mountains of California. He is currently pursuing the development of agricultural research sites.

According to the National Institutes of Health, West Nile virus belongs to a group of disease-causing viruses known as flaviviruses, which are spread by insects, usually mosquitoes. Other flaviviruses include yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, dengue, and Saint Louis encephalitis. West Nile virus has become the most well-known flavivirus and represents an emerging infectious disease in the United States.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.

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