SkaffNicholas Skaff, PhD Student

The Effects of Wetland Characteristics on West Nile Virus Prevalence

The Problem

  • West Nile is the world’s most widely distributed arthropod-transmitted virus, occurring on all continents except Antarctica
  • During the decade after West Nile’s 1999 arrival to North America, approximately 1.8 million people were infected resulting in 360,000 illnesses and 1,308 deaths
  • Wetlands are an important convergence point for the main West Nile vector - mosquitoes - that use them for larval development, as well as for the primary enzootic hosts - birds
  • Therefore, factors like total wetland area, wetland isolation and wetland eutrophication may influence West Nile prevalence by altering resources available for mosquitoes and food web dynamics

Research Question

  • How do wetland abundance, isolation and eutrophication affect West Nile virus prevalence in mosquitoes and humans?
  • Are there thresholds in enzootic West Nile occurrence that, when surpassed, lead to epizootic outbreaks?


  • Broad-scale, landscape-level analysis of West Nile occurrence and wetland abundance, isolation and eutrophication in the Midwestern and Northeastern United States
  • Local-scale field surveys of West Nile occurrence in Michigan urban and rural wetlands


  • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
  • ESPP Doctoral Recruiting Fellowship
  • Ambrose Pattullo Graduate Fellowship for Literary Work

Michigan State University