University News

WIU Environmental Science Student Defends Dissertation

December 13, 2023

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MACOMB, IL - - Terri Billingsley Tobias, a doctoral student in Environmental Science at Western Illinois University, has successfully defended her dissertation. This achievement makes her the third student in the program to reach this milestone and she is set to graduate in the Fall 2023 semester. Notably, all three graduates in the doctorate program have been females, with two of them being from Illinois.

"Terri's work has advanced our understanding of the relationship between fungi in the environment and the ability of Aedes Albopictus mosquitoes to hatch," WIU Environmental Science Director Roger Viadero said. "Insights gained from her work are a first step to developing new non-chemical approaches to controlling mosquitoes in the wild."

Tobias presented findings on her study of "Freshwater fungal diversity and ecological interactions with mosquitoes and plant communities." Her work has provided new insights into the effects that fungi found in plants can have on the hatching of Aedes albopictus, commonly known as the Asian Tiger Mosquito.

This invasive species is known to carry and transmit diseases that can impact humans, including dengue, chikungunya and Zika. Her research underscores the importance of understanding the complexity of aquatic ecosystems and the relationships between aquatic yeasts, bacteria and mosquitoes.

"I was very fortunate to have this opportunity, and I am thankful for the support I received from the Institute of Environmental Studies and Western Illinois University," Tobias said. "Understanding the adaptations and interactions of yeasts, bacteria and mosquitoes in freshwater can provide valuable insights for potential interventions and control strategies and will help me in the future as I work in high school settings and beyond."

For more information on WIU's Environmental Science program, visit

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