Mosquito urban wetlands

September 11, 2015

Safer, healthier and biodiverse urban wetlands are the goal for Jayne Hanford’s PhD research.

After a stint working as an environmental consultant trawling swampland in Sydney and Wollongong, Jayne Hanford has gone back to uni to do a postgrad researching one of Australia’s least favourite invertebrates – mosquitoes.

“Bugs are really cool,” says Jayne, with characteristic enthusiasm. “They’re like little aliens when you look at them under a microscope, and there’s a lot of diversity.”

Jayne’s research at The University of Sydney looks at what conditions can create mosquito-free urban wetlands and preserve urban wetland biodiversity.

“I’m the only person researching the aquatic environment – there are people working on tic pathogens, bees, spiders, ants and bats in urban areas,” says Jayne, describing the diversity of research being undertaken at her lab.

There is currently little research on biodiversity in urban wetlands – and what research is available is somewhat disjointed.

While the conditions conducive for mosquitoes are well understood in natural wetlands, as are the conditions for creating high biodiversity, these findings haven’t been applied to urban wetland ecology.

“I hadn’t really thought about mosquitoes before, I was more interested in the protection of biodiversity, and thought it would be interesting to look at that in an urban context,” says Jayne.

Her main supervisor at the uni, Associate Professor Dieter Hochuli is focused on urban ecology, so Jayne took the opportunity to undertake research into how biodiversity and mosquito populations are linked in urban wetlands.

“The councils I’ve spoken to would really like to know if their wetlands do have mosquitoes because it influences how they manage them in the future.”

As wetland vegetation are often good breeding grounds for mosquitoes, Jayne’s research will assist councils to understand the biodiversity value of a wetland and whether it poses a risk to public health from mosquito-borne diseases.

This understanding will lead to better management of a wetland’s biodiversity while minimising risks from mosquitos. And could allow for the integration of biodiversity and stormwater and wastewater management strategies with public health programs.

“My research will look at what we need to create a really good network of wetlands for conservation in urban areas that tick all the boxes,” explains Jayne.

“They must be visually appealing, be places for recreation, provide a habitat for wildlife, improve water quality, minimise mosquito or weed infestations – and avoid making people sick. People can walk their dogs around them, and they benefit biodiversity.”

– Carl Williams

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