Baylor Biology Doctoral Student Will Present Mosquito Control Research at Prestigious National Symposium

June 2, 2023

By Randy Fiedler

Heidi Lindsley

WACO, Texas (June 2, 2023) -- Heidi Pullmann-Lindsley, a doctoral candidate in biology at Baylor, has been selected to make a presentation about her mosquito research at the Rising Stars in Entomology Symposium at the Entomological Society of America annual meeting in November 2023. Only five students from across the country are chosen for this highly competitive honor each year.

The Entomological Society of America (ESA) is "the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines," according to the ESA website.  Founded in 1889, ESA has more than 7,000 members affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry and government.

The purpose of the Rising Stars in Entomology Symposium that Pullmann-Lindsley will attend in November in National Harbor, Maryland, is "to provide a high-profile opportunity for graduate students near the completion of their degrees to present a more in-depth overview of their thesis research. Students will have the opportunity to expand upon their research beyond the 10-minutes of the student competitions and gain valuable experience for future career presentations," according to the ESA website. Approximately 3,500 entomologists and other scientists gather at the symposium to exchange information and attend scientific presentations.

Pullmann-Lindsley is a fourth-year PhD student working at Baylor with Dr. Jason Pitts, assistant professor of biology in the College of Arts & Sciences. Pitts, a board member of the Texas Mosquito Control Association, serves as Pullman-Lindsley's thesis advisor and is the principal investigator of Baylor's Arthropod Sensory Biology Lab, where she conducts her research.

"During her time in the biology PhD program, Heidi has made outstanding contributions to research and science communication," Pitts said. " This spring, she received the Certificate of Excellence in Research from the Department of Biology. In 2022, she was awarded second place in the student presentation competition at the Entomological Society of America Southwestern Branch meeting, and in 2021 she received second place in the Baylor Graduate Student Association 3-Minute Thesis competition. In addition, a recent paper of hers on her mosquito research has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Medical Entomology."

At the Symposium, Pullman-Lindsley will talk about her research involving new methods of controlling mosquitoes that she's been working on for the past year.

"The title of my talk is "Aedes aegypti odorant receptors respond to behaviorally relevant plant volatiles," she said. "Mosquitoes require regular sugar meals, usually in the form of floral nectar, to maintain biological function. They locate these sugar meals using sensory proteins called odorant receptors, which can detect key chemical cues that lead them to floral sources of nectar. Through the use of a heterologous expression system and an electrophysiological technique called two electrode voltage clamping, we are able to deorphanize these receptors, or to identify the specific environmental cues that produce responses in specific odorant receptors. Our lab has previously identified odorant receptors in mosquitoes that respond to the floral volatile, linalool. In this study, we have characterized a suite of odorant receptors in the Dengue and Zika vector, Aedes aegypti, that are activated by plant volatile compounds that variously act as attractants or repellents. This information can be used to assess mosquito foraging behavior and develop novel control strategies."