Exploring Local Environmental Factors Influencing Geographic Distribution of Black-Legged Tick Questing Activity

Authors: Chong Di*, Hunter College - City University of New York, Shipeng Sun, Assistant Professor, Allan Frei, Professor, Weigang Qiu, Professor
Topics: United States
Keywords: Black-legged tick,micro-geographic scale,LIDAR,NAIP,land cover classification,regression analysis,AICc
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download

The deer tick (Ixodes scapularis or I. scapularis), also known as the black-legged tick, is the primary vector that transmits Lyme Disease (LD) in Northeastern United States. To contain the geographic expansion of Lyme disease ticks across the US in recent decades, ecological studies have been conducted to understand the biotic and abiotic environmental factors affecting tick activity. We observed in preliminary surveys that the tick host-seeking activity varies across small local areas. The primary objective of this project is to identify the environmental factors that impact deer tick questing activities at the micro-geographic scale. From 2017-2018, we collected ticks at four New York City suburban locations during tick nymph and adult questing seasons. Tick sampling was conducted within 5m × 5m sites and field data including surface temperature and relative humidity were measured. Meanwhile, geospatial technologies were leveraged to process digital images including LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and NAIP (National Agriculture Imagery Program) in order to acquire environmental data with high spatial resolution. Regression models were then built with respect to different temporal scales and evaluated with the AICc approach. Modeling results reveal that predictors including temperature and NDVI define the temporal patterns of the tick questing activity while hardwood coverage and forest boundaries define its spatial patterns. The finding suggests that suburban areas with more hardwood coverage as well as more fragmented vegetated landscapes may be characterized with higher questing tick populations.

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