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Marianne Sinka

Medical entomologist/ecologist

It took me a while to decide what I wanted to do and I left school without any A Levels. A few office jobs later, I realised that what I cared about was our natural environment and I wanted to understand how it all works and fits together.  I returned to college and found myself on an undergrad course studying Environmental Biology at South Bank University. I spent a sandwich year at the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology (now Centre for Ecology and Hydrology), finished my degree and began a PhD at the Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College, examining how insect herbivores indirectly affect below-ground fauna by instigating changes in their host plant. I have always found invertebrates fascinating and never understood how someone can be fine walking through a field of cows but terrified of a little spider.

Fortuitous circumstances allowed me to assist on insect studies in Borneo and Belize but disease transmission has always held a specific interest – and is a lot more closely related to the surrounding environment then people often realise. When I had an opportunity to start a Post-Doc at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, with the Malaria Atlas Project, pulling together data on mosquitoes (“the most dangerous animal in the world”), I jumped at the chance – and that was 2005. I have remained at Oxford ever since, and am now based at the Oxford Long Term Ecology Lab, collecting data on these pernicious insects, mapping their distributions, trying to understand their behaviour and how they fit in their natural environment and impact us in ours.