Biologist’s interest in pest control goes national

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 10, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

April showers brought May flowers – and what seems like swarms of mosquitoes.

These days, Norman Grefe, the city’s biologist and mosquito control supervisor, is busy getting the city’s mosquito spraying program started for the season.

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The city sprays twice weekly in communities that have petitioned City Council to become special mosquito taxing districts. Besides spraying, he and his staff do mosquito trapping and surveillance.

Just six months ago — a &uot;slow time&uot; for mosquitoes in Virginia — Grefe went to South America for a week to study mosquito control methods.

He traveled to Suriname, a developing country near Brazil, as a consultant on a medical vector control team in October 2002.

The project, funded by the federal government, sent the team in to make an initial assessment of the country’s mosquito control system. The team also came up with recommendations that would enhance the system.

&uot;It was like an experience in the Outback,&uot; said Grefe, 31. &uot;Some areas were accessible only by traveling upriver in a canoe.&uot;

Suriname, a country about the size of Georgia, still struggles with tropical diseases, especially malaria, he said.

The trip was an opportunity to see tropical mosquito control – a topic that he had previously only explored in textbooks – in action, Grebe said.

&uot;Seeing it in practice is totally different,&uot; he added.

After earning his master’s degree in biology next year, Grefe said, he wants to begin work on his doctorate. But he might allow himself to be sidetracked long enough to pull a stint in the Peace Corps.

&uot;The trip to Suriname really motivated me to want to offer help where help is most needed.&uot;

Name? Norman Grefe

Age 31

Hometown? Suffolk, Va.

Family? Single. I have two cats, Kecoughtan and Isis

Education? Bachelors degree from Old Dominion University. Currently, I’m working on a master’s degree in biology at ODU.

Career/Occupation? Mosquito control supervisor/biologist for the city of Suffolk.

Volunteer activities? None

Favorite thing about Suffolk? I grew up in Suffolk, so I welcomed the opportunity to come back and work for my hometown. I like the small-town character of the city and enjoy working with the citizens.

Describe your vision of downtown Suffolk five years from now? It would be nice to see something comparable to Colley Avenue over in Norfolk’s Ghent area: a bustling mix of businesses, shops, restaurants, and so forth.

Why did you pursue your chosen career? I stumbled onto the career/educational path towards my present position a few years ago. I’ve long had a strong interest in science, but it wasn’t until I began working for the Norfolk Health Department in 2000 that I realized the potential of pursuing scientific interests as a career.

The mosquito field may not have been my initial choice at the time, but it has since proven to be a fascinating and rewarding field of endeavor.

Favorite thing about your job? I enjoy the dynamic nature of what I do. Things are always changing and new challenges constantly arise. I thrive off of that.

Least favorite thing about your job? Long hours during the summer can be a bit tedious.

What accomplishment are you most proud of? A consulting/research trip to South America last fall.

Who or what motivates and inspires you? I find motivation and inspiration in everyday occurrences and people I meet.

Favorite way to spend free time? I am an avid reader, so when the opportunity arises when I do have free time, which is rare between work and grad school, I like to spend it reading.

What words or wisdom would you like to share with others? Don’t be wrapped up in the past, or worry too much about the future. The only thing that’s real is the present moment, so it’s important to live with that awareness for achieving happiness.

What ingredients are in the recipe for a good life? Just be yourself.

We all have our 15 minutes of fame in this life. How would you spend your time in the spotlight? I would probably spend my time trying to get out of the spotlight. I’m a quiet, low-key person who generally tends to avoid such things.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I wouldn’t change anything about myself.