Dr. Arne Bomblies' research focuses on curtailing the spread of malaria, a significant global health challenge that accounts for one-third of all worldwide deaths of children under five. Originally from Castle Rock, Colorado, he arrived at the CEMS' School of Engineering in January 2009.
As an MIT graduate student, Bomblies spent over a year leading fieldwork in Niger, Africa a hot spot for malaria researching how environmental variables can impact the spread of one of the world's most devastating diseases. Dr. Bomblies has been developing a new class of models linking hydrology and entomology that is highly detailed in space and time and resolves environmental determinants of malaria on the local scale. Examples of model applications include showing that elimination of low spots where pools of water collect during the rainy season and applying locally grown plant materials can dramatically reduce the growth of mosquitoes that cause malaria's spread.
In 2007 Dr. Bomblies was featured in Seed magazine's Revolutionary Minds series (see "Revolutionary Minds: The Ambassadors") for his global research which is expanding the boundaries and reach of traditional scientific research and has the potential to effect worldwide change. His goal is to understand how the environment influences malaria transmission.
"More precipitation doesn't necessarily mean that there will be more mosquitoes," says Dr. Bomblies, citing one example of the importance of model detail. "If it rains really hard in one location, water might flood through breeding habitats and flush out the mosquito larvae, preventing the larvae from becoming the adult insects that transmit the disease."
Bomblies' research on malaria continues this summer in Ethiopia with UVM graduate student Jody Stryker. They will arrive before the summer rains start and work during the peak of the monsoon. They will investigate different aspects of environmental controls of malaria transmission, including how land use change can affect the force of infection.
"When I first got to MIT, I thought I would pursue traditional water resource engineering. When the model development project bridging the disciplines of engineering and public health was proposed to me, I knew it would be a fascinating opportunity," says Dr. Bomblies.
His UVM project is funded by Project EPSCoR. His findings were presented to the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco in December 2008.