Date of Award

Spring 2-27-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Departments/Programs

Geography

First Advisor

Shipeng Sun

Second Advisor

Allan Frei

Third Advisor

Weigang Qiu

Academic Program Adviser

Peter Marcotullio

Abstract

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 (Akaike Information Criterion) approach. Modeling results reveal that predictors including temperature and NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) 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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