Pest insects do enormous damage to human health (through transmission of diseases such as dengue fever and malaria) and to agriculture (through damage to crops or livestock). Our cross-disciplinary research programme explores ecological and genetic aspects of novel methods to control insect populations. We focus primarily on a transgenic variant of the Sterile Insect Technique, an area-wide method of biological pest control in which large numbers of sterile pest insects are released; these mate with wild insects, but no offspring result, so the population’s reproductive potential is reduced and numbers are suppressed.
Laith's research used mathematical models to investigate strategies to control pest populations by releasing sterile males. He examined the feasibility of a sterile male method to prevent the spread of an invasive freshwater crustacean. Several studies expanded on current understanding of the Sterile Insect Technique and related genetic control strategies, exploring spatial aspects such as target area size, release patterns and population aggregation, and investigating the importance of including life stages, density-dependence and demographic stochasticity.
Thesis (2008): Mathematical modelling of novel pest control strategies