Ligia Cota Vieira

Research Scientist Affiliation: NYU Abu Dhabi
Email: lcotavieira@nyu.edu
Education: PhD Virginia Tech

Research Areas: red palm weevil, Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, genetic pest control


Ligia Cota Vieira is a research scientist in the Center of Genomics and System Biology at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD).

Ligia’s work focuses specifically on the development of a novel genetic control strategy for the control of the red palm weevil, Rhynchophorus ferrugineus. The red palm weevil is an invasive and highly damaging pest of palms in the Middle East and Europe.

After earning her PhD from Virginia Tech, Ligia was a postdoctoral scholar at Czech University of Life Sciences Prague and at Biology Centre of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, a research scientist at ITQB NOVA, and joined NYUAD as a research scientist in 2019.

Research

The red palm weevil, Rhynchophorus ferrugineus (Olivier), is native to South Asia and Melanesia, where it has been reported as a significant pest of palms. Since the 1980s, this weevil has spread rapidly throughout the Middle East and Europe, where it causes serious damage to several palm species. One of the most susceptible species to the red palm weevil is the date palm, Phoenix dactylifera L.. The removal of severely infested trees alone costs 8 million dollars annually in the Middle East. The control of the red palm weevil is challenging both in terms of detection, as the infestation is already quite advanced when the trees start exhibiting symptoms, and of control options. Chemical control is available, but it is expensive and is not a sustainable and environmentally sound option. And biological control is not an effective option in tropical dry areas. My research focuses on a new approach for the control of the red palm weevil, use the pest itself as control by manipulating its genetic makeup – genetic pest control. The aim is to find genes that are relevant for the reproductive potential, fitness, host selection, and impact of this pest; target these genes, and ultimately transfer these deleterious mutations to the population.