Holly Tuten is a vector ecologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS). She completed her undergraduate degree at UNC-Chapel Hill (B.Sc. biol. with chem. minor) where she conducted research on Drosophila americana and fieldwork on tick surveillance. She obtained her M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Entomology at Clemson University as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow investigating the ecology of arthropod vectors in zoological parks. Her first post-doc at the University of Kentucky laid the groundwork for a mass release of modified mosquitoes in American Samoa. Her second post-doc was on invasive mosquito vectors at the Institute for Parasitology in Zurich where she also provided taxonomic expertise to the arthropod diagnostic lab. Following this she spent 2.5 years training and working with USDA APHIS as a Risk Analyst for the prevention, detection, and control of invasive pests in the United States. For the past year, she has been at INHS conducting research on ticks and mosquitoes in Illinois and runs the active tick surveillance program for the State of Illinois. (Fun fact: Holly hiked the “Camino del Santiago” in Spain and the “West Highland Way” in Scotland after college.)
What do you look forward to the most in your role at INHS?
Fostering new research connections between the INHS Medical Entomology Lab and other researchers at INHS and across campus for the study of arthropod vectors.
How old were you when you first became interested in science? What sparked your interest?
One of my earliest childhood memories is of first building up the nerve and then sticking my hand into the middle of a nest of lasiocampid (tent caterpillar) larvae to see what would happen.
Who or what drew you to study arthropod vectors?
I met my first mentor, Bill Wills, during summer work collecting ticks for a project on blacklegged tick distributions. I was responsible for establishing and conducting collections in 10 parks in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Bill had mentored my boss and wanted to go with me to critique our field protocol. He ended up becoming a good friend and advisor and encouraged me to work with Peter Adler at Clemson University who eventually became my Ph.D. advisor and a great mentor. These people taught me that the study of vectors has rich intellectual possibilities and concrete societal implications.
What question do you get asked most frequently about your career or the subject you study?
Why don’t we just get rid of all mosquitoes?