Cayman loses mozzie guru to Miami

| 26/07/2017 | 22 Comments
Cayman News Service

MRCU Director Dr Bill Petrie (right) with Dr Renaud Lacroix from Oxitec

(CNS): After more than three decades battling pesky mosquitoes in Cayman, Dr Bill Petrie, the director of the Mosquito Control and Research Unit (MRCU), is leaving the island to head up the Miami-Dade Mosquito Control Division in Florida. Petrie has worked at MRCU since 1984, when he joined as a research assistant after graduating from Dundee University with a biology-zoology degree. Petrie will be sorely missed and government officials paid tribute ahead of his departure.

“Dr Petrie will be a huge loss to us as he has contributed so much not only to mosquito research and control here in the Cayman Islands, but is highly regarded and respected around the globe for his work,” said Deputy Governor Franz Manderson in a release announcing Petrie’s new job Wednesday. “I thank him for all that he has done as a civil servant and as an ambassador for our country.”

Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn said it had been a great pleasure to work with Petrie. “His work at MRCU is of local and international importance. We wish him every success in his new role in Miami,” she added.

Dwayne Seymour, the new health minister who now has responsibility for the unit, said he had great respect for Petrie and his team’s work, as they play an integral role ensuring mosquitoes are kept under control.

Petrie leaves at a critical time for the MRCU, as the first phase of the Oxitec bio-engineered mosquito pilot project is due to be rolled out across the island in the coming months. He was instrumental in looking for alternatives to the pesticide and larvicide used to combat the invasive Aedes aegypti mosquito because of its increasing resistance.

Dr Petrie’s last day at MRCU will be Friday, 4 August, and he takes up his position in Miami-Dade on Monday, 14 August. The ministry’s deputy chief officer, Nancy Barnard, will act as the MRCU director until a successor is appointed.

Petrie is a leading expert on the world stage in mosquito control. He achieved his PhD through his research into the reproductive biology of the Cayman Islands’ swamp mosquito. Following his work in research he went on to become deputy director of MRCU and in 1998 was promoted to the top job.

He has continued the legacy of research and control established by MRCU founder, Dr Marco Giglioli, who opened the facility in 1965. The work started by Dr Giglioli and continued by Petrie saw the MRCU rise to be a leader in mosquito research and control regionally and internationally. The success of the mosquito control techniques allowed the Cayman Islands economy, including tourism and the financial sector, to flourish, with many countries regularly seeking advice on ways to emulate MRCU’s achievements.

It is, therefore, not surprising that he has been snapped up by Miami- Dade County, where they are battling increased problems with the Aedes aegypti. Petrie will be responsible for mosquito control in his new job but the focus will  be on the prevention of mosquito-borne diseases.

“I’ve spent many enjoyable years of my life here, especially working with the great team at MRCU, but I’m looking forward to the challenges of mosquito control in Miami,” he said. “It has been a great privilege to continue the ground-breaking work started by Dr Giglioli,” he added.

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Category: Land Habitat, Local News, Science & Nature

Comments (22)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Ah senior Civil Servants. The rock stars of the Cayman Islands. Always feted with praise at the end of extended seat warming sessions. What exactly has been achieved in this case? Where are the results other than fancy headquarters in Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Absolutely. Put a Caymaian in this job!

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    • Anonymous says:

      9.02 Far less mosquito bites than you would have had in the 70’s…you are not from around here, are you? The man has done great work, and whilst we still all get bitten once in a while, we can actually live and thrive because it is not how it used to be…

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  2. Anonymous says:

    It started a few years ago, several top talent are leaving the Civil Service, hopefully they turn things around before all they have left is 100% dead wood.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    MRCU has become a sad shell over the past decade. The planes are largely absent from the sky and the mosquitoes are worse than ever. And don’t even mention the forgotten Sister Islands. Little Cayman has been virtually forgotten when it comes to mosquito control.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Not all deputies are able to fulfill the role full time, regardless of qualifications the director must be a people person too, and be able to command air operations not just a biology degree. The current deputy is apparently only able to ignore emails and not respond.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    I find it strange that Dr. Allan Wheeler who is Caymanian and is the Assistsnt Director of MRCU, (there has not been a Deputy Director at MRCU for many years now) why is it that Dr. Wheeler has not been appointed as Acting Director now that Dr. Petrie has resigned and is about to take up his new position in Miami ?

    Why is the present Acting Director being brought from the Govt Administration Building, who has no experience whatsoever in the field of Antamology or Mosquito Reasearch and Control ?

    There is more to this story than what meets the eye and I suspect that you will learn about it, much sooner than later.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Oh my lord Jesus! This is a self serving post if ever I saw one, 11:15am! Grow up!

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      • Anonymous says:

        Anyone who knows about the personalities in MRCU knows who the writer of the post at 11:15 am is. That is the point of the comment at 5:17pm.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Good luck to Dr Petrie.

    It will be interesting to see if there is a succession plan in place, and, if a Caymanian takes up the position of Director.

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    • Anonymous says:

      There is a Caymanian who could take over but he’s not the sort of Caymanian many people who constantly comment on the topic of succession would approve of.

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    • New Caymanian says:

      I have no issue with a Caymanian being promoted as long as they are qualified and not just promoted because they are Caymanian and worked in the civil service for decades. Long length of tenure does not nake you qualified either

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    • Anonymous says:

      Actually Dr. Petrie is Caymanian. He became one many, many years ago. Do we have any others with the requisite knowledge/skills/experience? All the best to you Bill.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Yes indeed, as long as there is a qualified Caymanian who will keep the bug population down. If it’s just someone who qualifies purely because they are Caymanian but has no other qualifications, then I want the import license for smoke pots and bug spray.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Not only is Dr. Petrie an exceptional professional but he is a good person. One of the few senior public officials who remains humble while maintaining the effectiveness of his function. Cayman’s loss is Miami’s gain. Godspeed Dr. Petrie, thanks for your many years of service and contributions.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    He is great man in all areas!!

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  9. Anonymous says:

    This is a huge loss for Cayman… Dr. Petrie is an outstanding individual.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    What a tremendous loss to our island but we surely wish Dr. Petrie all the best.
    God bless sir

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    • Anonymous says:

      Where is the CAYMANIAN under study to take his place?.??

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      • Anonymous says:

        Exactly. Could not the Ministry and the Deputy Governor not see this coming?
        So many Departments in CIG are without a succession plan, and when someone cares and creates plan, either subterfuge is performed or they are called out because they are going against the establishment. The lack of training opportunities on the job or otherwise by this lack of oversight is causing so many issues within the Civil Service, and no one seems to care. Example CSD dig deep. Look in detail also at exit statements from staff of other Departments.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Probably out at a bar complaining he can’t get a job.

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