VCU researchers study West Nile in birds and mosquitoes
Biology student Wes Robertson gingerly handled the 8-day-old baby bluebird, checking its spindly legs, measuring its length, weighing it on a palm-sized scale, and then rubbing a swab in its mouth to get a saliva sample.
He handed the swab to Virginia Commonwealth University researcher Kevin Caillouet, who broke off the swab tip into a labeled clear tube before sealing it and putting it in a case with other samples being kept cool with dry ice.
The baby bird was returned to a nearby bird box, where it was nesting with three siblings. The night before, a mosquito trap designed by Caillouet was attached to the bird box to catch mosquitoes that might feed on the birds.
So far this summer, the researchers have collected hundreds of mosquitoes and more than 740 bird saliva samples as they try to better understand factors that affect how much West Nile virus is in a community and how it is spread.