Mission of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory

The FMEL, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), University of Florida, is about 3 miles south of Vero Beach along the Indian River Lagoon on Florida's subtropical east coast. The Laboratory, established in 1956, consists of a group of buildings among 38 acres of oak-palm forest, scrub oak-pine forest, and extensive salt marsh.

The Florida State Legislature, recognizing the need for greatly expanded research on the biology and control of mosquitoes, especially about the effects of insect-carried diseases on the citizens of Florida and on its tourist industry, mandated that the FMEL:

1. - Conduct research in the biology and control of biting insects and other arthropods which are important transmitters of disease or pest annoyances, giving special attention to the needs of Florida's mosquito control organizations (districts, counties and municipalities).

2. - Be a center to train students and personnel in the entomological aspects of public health, veterinary science, sanitation, mosquito control, drainage and irrigation design, wetlands management, and other areas requiring knowledge of medical entomology.

3. - Extend research and training to international programs.

Today, the FMEL is one of the world's largest research institutions devoted to the understanding and control of medically important and biting insects. Modern laboratory and support facilities and easy access to natural habitats offer an environment conducive to scientific investigation. The FMEL faculty and staff have published over 1100 scientific publications have been published in about 90 national and international journals. The FMEL staff of about 30 includes nine faculty in the University of Florida's IFAS, Department of Entomology and Nematology and several post-doctoral and graduate students in the Department. The FMEL extension program emphasizes gathering information, distribution of important research findings, and conducting biological studies at mosquito control districts.

Major Program Areas Emphasized:

1. Mosquito Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

2. Biology and Control of Mosquitoes in Human-Made and Natural Containers.

3. Mosquito Production Associated with Wastewater Treatment and Disposal Areas and with Storm water Detention/Retention Systems.

4. Biology and Ecology of the Indian River Lagoon Estuary and Associated Flora and Fauna.

5. Genetic, Morphological and Ecological Differentiation of Malaria, Virus, and Filarial Carrying Mosquitoes.

6. Evaluating and Predicting Encephalitis Epidemics in Florida.

7. Nutritional Needs of Florida Mosquitoes.

8. Behavior and Biocontrol of Mosquitoes and Sand flies.

9. Removal Trapping as a Means of Controlling Biting Arthropods.

10. Population Dynamics and Epidemiological Modeling.

11. Providing handbooks, videos, fact sheets, technical bulletins, brochures, computer tutorials, traveling displays and exhibits, a bimonthly newsletter (BuzzWords), workshops, seminars, and training courses.

The FMEL site is surrounded by a 291 acre preserve of similar habitats including freshwater wetlands, mangrove forests and a scrubby pine flatwoods. On the FMEL eastern boundary, the Indian River Lagoon includes seagrass beds, shallow sand bottoms, spoil islands, and bird rookeries. An adjacent rookery has been designated as one of the ten most important rookeries in the state by the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission. The convergence of these habitats provides an exceptional outdoor classroom setting which afford students the opportunity to experience the contrasts and similarities of all of these habitats. Over 130 species of plants have been identified in the area and a wide variety of vertebrate and invertebrate animals make the area their home. Among the flora and fauna are some threatened/endangered species including the bald eagle, the manatee, the gopher tortoise, the coral root orchid, the butterfly orchid, and various bromeliads.

Physical facilities include modern laboratories, offices, a library, and teaching/conference facilities. The Roundhouse is a screened pavilion which sits in the midst of a coastal oak hammock and can accommodate large experimental set-ups in an ambient, but controlled environment. Classroom facilities are located by a tidal creek and nestled among mangroves and include adjoining wet laboratories and field access.

Other facilities include a biological safety level III laboratory, an insectary for holding exotic mosquitoes, a metal and wood working shop, biochemistry and molecular laboratories, and a graphics lab. The FMEL offers an experienced staff of researchers and educators, a singular site, and ample physical facilities.