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.



  1. mfcharbonier says:

    Hey Maowei,

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog posts and have found them very informative about everything related to ticks. I was curious as to if you ever verified or disproved your hypothesis about the correlation between the tick count and deer prevalence. I also find it incredibly interesting that both of your other predictions proved incorrect as I would have assumed the same things that you did. Since you think that the lack of correlation might be due to varying methods of data collection over the years, how do you think you, or other William & Mary students could improve upon your research to find more conclusive results in the future? Will you continue to do research regarding ticks or move on to other research topics?

    Thanks for sharing with us!

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