A lot of people find snakes scary or gross. Ciera McCoy, a graduate biology student, uses them to learn more about diseases.
McCoy presented part of her master’s thesis at the Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in Rochester, New York, July 11-15.
About her research
McCoy looks at viruses that mosquitoes carry and can make humans sick and sometimes be fatal.
When mosquitoes transmit the disease to cottonmounth snakes, the snakes do not get sick. The snakes also cannot transmit the viruses when they bite.
Mosquitoes infect cottonmouths because they can harbor these viruses over the winter without becoming ill. Mosquitoes get ill or lose the virus over the winter.
Mosquitoes can pick it back up in the spring, infecting everyone as they go.
McCoy stresses that there is no cure to these diseases.
She wants to see how prevalent these diseases are in Missouri. How often the carriers, the cottonmouths, are infected gives her a better idea of the prevalence than looking at the mosquitoes. Added benefits include that she can do research year-round and does not risk getting one of the viruses.
McCoy wants to use this information to better inform and educate people.
About the conference
McCoy was excited to present her research, but she enjoyed getting feedback more.
“The most beneficial part of the conference was connecting with people that are established in the field and gaining insight from them regarding my project,” McCoy said.
She also liked seeing what other research was out there and learning about new things.