West Nile virus (WNV) has been present in the United States since 1999 and like many RNA viruses, it is known to have high mutation rates. At Carroll College, a decade long project continues in which the state of Montana is surveyed for the presence of WNV. We have created and continue to refine a risk assessment map to predict where outbreaks will occur in a given year. The goal of this particular study was to assess and compare genetic variation of West Nile virus sequences found within geographically distinct mosquito populations across the state of Montana using the highly variable env gene. Two different primer sets were utilized to perform reverse transcription and DNA amplification on the viral RNA, which was followed by gel electrophoresis to visualize the amplifications. Amplification was achieved in a subset of samples and the products were sequenced, although the resulting sequences were of low quality. Knowledge about the evolution and diversification of the WNV in Montana will contribute to refinement of the risk assessment model, which should help in
making better predictions of WNV outbreaks.