Photo credit John Woodcock, Lincoln sparrow with three ticks attached. Header photo by John Woodcock, Veery with tick attached.

Citizen Science

With the emerging and rapidly expanding issues of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases nationwide, citizen science can be a powerful tool to start answering questions and filling in the gaps of knowledge. See what we are doing here in Colorado and learn how you can participate in nationwide efforts!

Colorado Bird Study

Studies in both the US and Canada have shown that wild birds are important concern for both transport of tick species and as host reservoirs of tick borne infections. In 2016, COTBDAA launched a study in collaboration with Bird Conservancy of the Rockies to determine which, if any, ticks and tick borne diseases birds may be transporting in Colorado. 2016 was the first season of a multi-year study in which bird banding researchers from Bird Conservancy of the Rockies are collecting ticks from birds in Colorado. Ticks are being identified by USDA, National Veterinary Services Laboratory Entomologist, Dr. H. Joel Hutcheson. Three ticks were collected at Fall banding stations in 2016 and then tested for multiple pathogens by Nieto Lab at Northern Arizona University. Three ticks were also collected at Fall banding stations in 2017 and tested for multiple pathogens at Ticknology. No ticks collected during these survey efforts were positive for the pathogens tested for.

Upper Arkansas Valley Passive Tick Surveillance

Our community members and cooperators at “Gone to the Dogs” have been busy in 2017 providing COTBDAA tick specimens collected from their canine companions. Our first specimens arrived in May, though other community members had been experiencing tick encounters throughout March and April. The submission of tick specimens waned at the end of June. Tick species collected from dogs include the Brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), Rocky Mountain Wood Tick (Dermacentor andersoni), Rotund Tick (Ixodes kingi), American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis) with Rocky Mountain wood ticks being most common.  Rocky Mountain wood ticks were also collected from horses. These ticks were forwarded to USDA, National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) Entomologist, Dr. H. Joel Hutcheson for identification, and then tested for multiple pathogens by Nieto Lab at Northern Arizona University. Results of this testing are not yet available as the Nieto Lab received an overwhelming number of ticks collected nationwide this year.  We should have a report by Februrary 2018.

In addition to the above, two blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) were collected by our cooperators at “Gone to the Dogs” from two separate canines in November of 2017. Both dogs had a recent travel history to Arkansas and Indiana respectively. These ticks were also forwarded to USDA, NVSL Entomologist, Dr. H. Joel Hutcheson for identification, and then tested for multiple pathogens at Ticknology.  The tick collected from the dog that had traveled from Indiana tested positive for Borrelia burgdorferi.

Bay Area Lyme Foundation Tick Testing

Bay Area Lyme Foundation (BALF) initiated a National tick testing study in 2016. Their goal is to provide individuals with free information as to whether a tick they have encountered is an infected or uninfected tick.  This program is NOT INTENDED FOR CLINICAL DECISIONS NOR AS A DIAGNOSTIC TOOL. By sending in your tick(s) you are participating in a citizen science project and national tick-collection/testing effort which will enable their scientists to compare past and potential future distributions of ticks and tick-borne disease. The six pathogens that they test for include: Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia miyamotoi, Babesia microti, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and Ehrlichia chafeensis. Ticks are tested based on known incidence of these pathogens. Their hope is that by collecting this data, they may be able to predict where risk of disease is most common.

Only 17 ticks were sent in to the study from Colorado in 2016. Tick species included Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni, 2), American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis, 10), Brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus, 1), Pacific Coast Tick (Dermacentor occidentalis,1), Rabbit tick (Haemaphysalis leporis palustris,2), and Ixodes spinipalpis (1). All Colorado tick specimens tested negative for pathogens included in the study in 2016. We have not yet received data for 2017.

Notice from BALF: “Because a significant backlog of ticks sent in for testing over the past several months has occurred, we will be suspending this program until February 1, 2018.  This will give the lab at Northern Arizona University time to process and notify those people who have sent in ticks and who have been waiting beyond the estimated time we expected….we’re looking forward to publishing the nationwide results from 2016 – 2017 by January 2018. This program will start back up again in February 2018.”

TickEncounter-TickSpotters Program

TickEncounter is keeping track of tick encounters, and they need all of the TickSpotters they can get! Thousands of citizen scientists are submitting REAL data that’s helping drive tick awareness tools. Millions of people across North America encounter various types and stages of ticks every year. Pets are even more at risk. By recording location and date, and submitting an identification or picture, you can improve tick bite risk warning systems to bring seasonally and spatially relevant prevention messages to the broadest audience possible.

LymeDisease.Org-MyLymeData

MyLymeData is a patient powered research project by LymeDisease.Org. It was conceived by patients, is run by patients, and addresses the issues that patients care about. It lets Lyme disease patients learn from each other and provides data that can help drive research to improve their lives. It is a new survey tool that tracks patient progress over time. It allows patients to use today’s computer technology to quickly and privately pool diagnosis and treatment experiences. LDO used results from MyLymeData for a poster presentation at the Lyme Disease Association/Columbia CME conference in St. Paul Minnesota in 2016. They also demonstrated the variable reporting of Lyme disease through various surveillance sources in Colorado.  Adding your data to MyLymeData will more accurately reflect Colorado Lyme numbers.

Image courtesy of LymeDisease.org