My name is Kevin Perkins. I am a senior Environmental Science major and French minor. In the past three years at Xavier, I have spent much of my time completing research in an aquatic entomology laboratory here in Xavier’s Biology Department. My work has involved mosquito larvae and other macroinvertebrates, West Nile Virus, salamander larvae, Cincinnati wetland habitats, and the Mill Creek watershed. Outside of the lab and classroom, I like to participate in some of Xavier’s service programs, such as Alternative Breaks and X-Change, and tend to my vegetable garden.
For my Brueggeman Fellowship, I studied EcoHealth. EcoHealth is a field of study that examines the systematic relationship between ecosystems and human health/wellbeing. Because of the complex nature of biological and human social systems, EcoHealth incorporates the work of experts from many disciplines. EcoHealth teams can be comprised of many professionals including, but not limited to, biologists, economists, physicians, veterinarians, policy makers, social scientists, and community leaders.
For my travel component, I was fortunate enough to work alongside an international team of researchers studying Buruli Ulcer (BU). BU is an understudied tropical disease that is caused by a bacteria related to leprosy and tuberculosis. Once an individual is infected with the bacteria, they can develop lesions over large parts of their skin which, if untreated, result in severe scarring, muscle and bone damage, and deformity. Unfortunately, nobody knows how people become infected but one hypothesis is that biting aquatic insects might be a potential vector.
In the summer of 2014, I traveled to the countryside of Benin, in West Africa, to work with researchers trying to figure out how BU is transmitted. The team I worked with consisted of American and Beninese microbiologists, epidemiologists, geographers, ecologists, entomologists, and physicians. I specifically collected many (like tens of thousands) aquatic insects, some of which will be tested to see if they vector the bacteria, and assisted a geographer in collecting case data in endemic communities.
If you would like to learn more about Buruli Ulcer or other EcoHealth work here are some helpful links.
The World Health Organizations BU page- http://www.who.int/buruli/en/
EcoHealth Journal (contains lots of interesting scientific articles) - http://www.ecohealth.net/
What They're Doing Now
Right now, I am finishing my last year at Xavier. After graduation, I would like to participate in additional EcoHealth work (perhaps in arthropod vectored diseases) that bridges the gap between human and the nonhuman. I am looking into graduate school programs and international service opportunities that might allow me to do this.