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In recent years, the geographical range of the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) has increased, as have the number of reported Lyme infections nationwide. Because I. scapularis is the vector of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, being bitten by this species frequently means exposure to B. burgdorferi as well, not only for humans but also for other species that can contract Lyme disease, including dogs and horses. While research on tick infection rates and distributions has been conducted in areas where humans dwell, the distribution of I. scapularis on equine properties is not well understood, especially as it pertains to exposure risk. To determine if the presence of ticks in fields influences the number of ticks that attach to the horses kept in them, I flagged pastures for ticks and obtained daily records detailing the number of ticks that staff, lesson riders, and boarders found on horses residing at two farms in the Hudson Valley, an area considered to be one of the nation’s Lyme ‘hotspots’. A comparison of these data revealed that the presence of ticks in pastures was significantly associated with the number of ticks found on the horses turned out in them at the two farms in this study (p = 0.02935). These findings suggest a need for further research on the subject of equine tick exposure in high-risk areas and demonstrate the usefulness of large-scale data collection by citizen scientists.
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Bannon, Lauren, "Examining the relationship between equine tick burden and the presence of Ixodes scapularis in pastures at Hudson Valley equine properties" (2018). Senior Projects Spring 2018. 15.