Department of Zoology
The Tinbergen Building
South Parks Road
Tel: +44 (0)1865 271234
Dr Nina Alphey
Postdoctoral research assistant, Mathematical Ecology Research Group
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, St Anne's College
Address: D50, Department of Zoology, The Tinbergen Building, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS
Phone: +44 (0)1865 281985
Fax: +44 (0)1865 310447
Pest insects do enormous damage to human health (through transmission of diseases such as dengue fever and malaria) and to agriculture (through damage to crops or livestock). Insecticide resistance is widely reported. The public increasingly wants more sustainable methods used to control pests. The relatively recent development of genetic transformation techniques for pest insects has opened up the possibility of employing novel methods to mitigate the harm done by insects. My research uses mathematical modelling to analyse these new biological approaches.
Two broad classes of genetic strategy have emerged: (1) “population replacement”, in which the insect vector population is converted, by spreading a genetic construct through it, into a “refractory” strain that is unable (or less able) to transmit the disease; (2) population suppression, in which the aim is to reduce the number of pest insects, for example using autocidal genetic constructs.
Population suppression strategies are closer to field use, so I have focussed mainly on those, particularly on a system called RIDL® (Release of Insects carrying a Dominant Lethal), which was developed in Oxford, originally in the University's Department of Zoology and now at Oxitec Ltd (http://www.oxitec.com), a biotechnology spin-out. This strategy is based on the Sterile Insect Technique, an area-wide method of biological pest control in which large numbers of sterile pest insects are released; these mate with wild insects, but no offspring result, so the population’s reproductive potential is reduced and numbers are suppressed. Various genetic improvements and variants have been produced or proposed and I develop theoretical frameworks and mathematical models to investigate the effect of applying these techniques. We are exploring the community ecology implications using competition/interaction models. We are developing further models to assess the cost-effectiveness of novel vector control strategies for reducing the burden of dengue, a major mosquito-borne viral disease, and of genetic strategies to suppress the olive fruit fly, a major pest of that crop. Using population genetic and population dynamic models, we are assessing the circumstances under which hypothetical resistance to the lethal mechanism might pose a significant threat to the effectiveness of releases for population control. I have also developed models to examine the use of RIDL releases to enhance other pest control methods by managing resistance.
- Science Media Centre, BBSRC Press Office and Sense About Science contact for journalists and others
- Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (FCA)
- Judge for Debating Matters, the national sixth form debating competition run by the Institute of Ideas, 2011
- Organiser, Quantum Information Processing Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration "Quantum Technologies Briefing" event, London, 10 Dec 2009, (Department of Materials, University of Oxford)
- Deputy Research Facilitator, Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, Jan - Mar 2009
- Entomological Society of America: ad-hoc member of Student Affairs Committee 2007-08
Primary research journals:
- Alphey N, Alphey L, Bonsall MB. 2011. A model framework to estimate impact and cost of genetics-based sterile insect methods for dengue vector control, PLoS ONE 6(10): e25384. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025384.
- Nina Alphey, Michael B. Bonsall and Luke Alphey. 2011. Modeling resistance to genetic control of insects, Journal of Theoretical Biology 270(1):42-55. doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2010.11.016.
- Michael B. Bonsall, Laith Yakob, Nina Alphey and Luke Alphey. 2010. Transgenic control of vectors: the effects of interspecific interactions, Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution 56(3-4):353-370. doi:10.1560/IJEE.56.3-4.353.
- Nina Alphey, Michael B. Bonsall and Luke Alphey. 2009. Combining pest control and resistance management: synergy of engineered insects with Bt crops, Journal of Economic Entomology 102(2):717-732. http://esa.publisher.ingentaconnect.com/content/esa/jee/2009/00000102/00000002/art00034.
- Nina Alphey, Paul G. Coleman, Michael B. Bonsall and Luke Alphey. 2008. Proportions of different habitat types are critical to the fate of a resistance allele, Theoretical Ecology 1(2):103-115. doi:10.1007/s12080-008-0010-8.
- Nina Alphey, Paul G. Coleman, Christl A. Donnelly and Luke Alphey. 2007. Managing insecticide resistance by mass-release of engineered insects, Journal of Economic Entomology 100(5):1642-1649. http://esa.publisher.ingentaconnect.com/content/esa/jee/2007/00000100/00000005/art00021.
- Michael P. Atkinson, Zheng Su, Nina Alphey, Luke Alphey, Paul G. Coleman, Lawrence M. Wein. 2007. Analyzing the Control of Mosquito-borne Diseases by a Dominant Lethal Genetic System, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104(22):9540-9545. doi:10.1073/pnas.0610685104.
- Tiina Murtola, Tapasvi Puwar, Robert Field, Nina Alphey, Hong-Fei Gong, Dileep Mavalankar, Donald S. Shepard, S.S. Vasan. (in press). Quantifying the impact of chikungunya and dengue on tourism. In Devashish Das Gupta (ed.) Tourism in global village, Excel India Publishers. pre-print available at www.iimahd.ernet.in/publications/data/2009-02-03Mavalankar.pdf
- Nina Alphey. 2009. Modelling optimal strategies for novel genetics-based pest management. DPhil thesis, University of Oxford.
- Alphey, L., Nimmo, D., O'Connell, S., and Alphey, N. 2007. Insect population suppression using engineered insects. In Aksoy, S (ed.) Transgenesis and the management of vector-borne disease, Landes Bioscience, Austin, Texas, USA (open access online at http://eurekah.com/chapter/3233).