Research on Amblyomma americanum adults and nymphs

So far this summer, I have spent the majority of my time conducting field work around the Virginia and Middle Peninsula areas in order to collect ticks that will be analyzed for pathogens. To do this, we drove, mountain biked, and hiked into the woods at various locations where transects were then established at points that have been utilized for the past several years for tick collection. For the tick collection itself, I dragged a 1 meter squared tarp along each transect, checking for ticks every three meters and putting any ticks in 70% ethanol. After returning to campus each day, I stored the ticks in freezers to preserve them until DNA analysis could be conducted. Below is an example photo of over 200 Amblyomma americanum nymphs in a collection tube with ethanol. In just one three meter stretch, we found 202 ticks, which is a record for this project.

 

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In total, we have collected ticks from about 130 plots, with each plot having received one visit. Due to lacking time, we will not be able to do multiple visits to each site to determine if there is any in-season variation in tick abundance. Given this, I have been pondering future directions with this project and have given some thought to changing the study design down the road. Perhaps instead of visiting all 130 sites, I might want to focus on a smaller amount of plots and visit each one multiple times during the summer to account for in-season variations. Another issue we ran into earlier in the summer was weather. On days when it rains, we are not able to go out into the field because the ground is too wet to collect ticks. Perhaps multiple visits to plots could also help to counteract microclimate fluctuations surrounding weather changes during the field work season.

Carrying out field work in the hot and humid Virginia climate has been physically demanding, but overall I have greatly been enjoying this experience. Being immersed in nature every day and conducting research has been quite enjoyable and I look forward to seeing results as this project progresses.

Comments

  1. Jehan Narielvala says:

    This is a really cool project and I’m looking forward to see where this goes. I think that the course-correction from a cross-sectional to a longitudinal study is the right move. I was just wondering what other variables you’re looking for related to these ticks other than the pathogens they carry?