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My research interests center on the ecology and population genetics of malaria parasites and their vectors. Presently, I am working on projects utilizing a natural, non-human malaria parasite-host relationship: the lizard malaria parasite, Plasmodium mexicanum, its vertebrate host, the western fence lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis, and the insect vectors (sand flies- not mosquitoes) Lutzomyia vexator and L. stewarti. Research on this system has been ongoing since 1978, initiated by my Ph. D. advisor Dr. Jos. J. Schall at the University of Vermont. A brief list of my current research projects are:
1. The population genetics of the sand fly vectors for Plasmodium mexicanum and how this relates to the patchy distribution of malaria at our field sites in northern California.
2. The immune response of Sceloporus occidentalis to infection by Plasmodium mexicanum and Schellackia occidentalis: alterations in the density and classes of white blood cells in infected and noninfected lizards.
3. Transmission bottlenecks in Plasmodium mexicanum: the fate of individual clones from mixed-clone infections.
4. Blood meal size of Lutzomyia vexator and L. stewarti: vectors for the lizard malaria parasite, Plasmodium mexicanum.
Plasmodium mexicanum, Sceloporus occidentalis, Lutzomyia vexator and L. stewarti: northern California
Plasmodium falciparum, Anopheles gambiae: Kenya
Motz, V., W. Lewis, A. M. Vardo-Zalik. Leukocyte profiles of the western fence lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis, naturally infected by the malaria parasite, Plasmodium mexicanum.Journal of Parasitology, 100(5): 592-597.
Hughes, G.L., S. Samuels, K. Shaikh, J. L. Rasgon and A.M. Vardo-Zalik. Discrimination of the Plasmodium mexicanum vectors Lutzomyia stewarti and Lutzomyia vexator by a PCR-RFLP assay and Wolbachia infection. Journal of Vector Ecology, 39(1):224-227. doi: 10.1111/j.1948-7134.2014.12092.x
Vardo-Zalik, A.M., G. Zhou, D. Zhong, Y. Afrane, A. Githeko and G. Yan. 2013. Alterations in Plasmodium falciparum genetic structure two years after increased malaria control efforts in Western Kenya. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 88(1): 29-36.
Siddique, S. H. and A. M. Vardo-Zalik. 2012. The effects of available glucose concentration on the population dynamics of growing Escherichia coli cultures. John T. and Paige S. Smith Undergraduate Science Research Symposium Proceedings. 5: 7-12.
Vardo-Zalik, A.M. and R. A. Campbell. 2011. New species of Acanthobothrium Van Beneden, 1849 (Cestoda: Tetraphyllidea) in elasmobranchs from the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico with first records from dogfish sharks and guitarfish. Zootaxa 2838:41-64.
Ford, A.L., A.M. Vardo-Zalik, and J.J. Schall 2010. Relative clonal density of two malaria parasites, P.falciparum and P. mexicanum, in mixed-genotype infections: validation of technique using microsatellite markers. Journal of Parasitology, 96(5): 908-13.
Fricke, J, A.M. Vardo-Zalik, and J. J. Schall. 2010. Geographic genetic differentiation of a malaria parasite, Plasmodium mexicanum, and its vertebrate host, the western fence lizard. Journal of Parasitology, 96(2): 308-313.
Vardo-Zalik, A.M. 2009. Clonal diversity of a malaria parasite, Plasmodium mexicanum, and its transmission success from its vertebrate to insect host. International Journal for Parasitology, 39: 1573-1579.
Vardo-Zalik, A.M. and J.J. Schall. 2009. Clonal diversity alters the infection dynamics of a malaria parasite (Plasmodium mexicanum) within its vertebrate host. Ecology, 90(2): 529-536.
Vardo, A.M. and J. J. Schall. 2007. Clonal diversity of a lizard malaria parasite, Plasmodium mexicanum, in its vertebrate host: role of variation in transmission intensity over time and space. Molecular Ecology, 16: 2712-2720