Tick Research Update 3

My abstract gave a very limited view into my research, so I will quickly rehash what I was attempting to discover as well as what I had inferred from data I already had access to. I investigated the effect of climate variability on adults and nymph abundance as moisture availability (a key factor determining tick survival) on the distribution of lone star ticks. I predicted that there would be an overall increase in the prevalence of ticks and a higher density of adult lone star ticks in areas with higher moisture levels. This was because I believed that adult ticks are hardier than nymphs.

Surprise! For Adults, the humidity did not explain differences in count (p=0.5155), but temperature seemed to influence adult tick abundance (p=0.007). However, this correlation is driven by one outlier. In contrast for nymphs, humidity was not important in explaining variation in nymph count, but there was a positive correlation with temperature (p values=0.0035 and 0.006 prospectively). There appears to be no correlation between temperature, humidity, or tick count. I suspect that this is a result of including data from a span of years with different collection days for ticks. For example, in 2017, the sampling period was completed more rapidly in a shorter span of time: June-July, but in years prior tick collection had spanned from June-August. We also used a GPS to randomly select points, but the GPS would often change directions or have problems with navigation once we were within a range of 8 feet.

Overall, this negative finding does not eliminate the possibility of moisture or temperature affecting tick count. We would only be able to truly prove that be housing ticks in an indoor facility with special safety clearances that would not be available at William and Mary. We were surprised to find that there was less of a correlation with ticks count and deer presence, but these are small but significant steps in scientific discovery.


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