Date of Award
Bachelor of Science
Environmental Science and Policy
tick, soil, Lyme disease, development, Pine Bush
The blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) is the one of the most significant vectors of infectious disease in the world and most notorious for its ability to transmit Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Because both the range of the blacklegged tick and the annual incidence of Lyme disease have been increasing in North America over the past several decades, it is becoming increasingly important to better understand how environmental factors contribute to blacklegged tick survival. Past studies have shown that these factors include precipitation levels, extent of groundcover, plant and animal community composition, temperature, and soil type. Because blacklegged ticks spend much of their lives in contact with the soil, it is not unreasonable to assume that soil texture and pH can have significant impacts on tick development and reproduction. However, this interaction is arguably one of the most poorly understood. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve in Albany, New York, is an ecosystem that supports very high blacklegged tick densities and is characterized by loamy-sandy soils with very low pH (approximately 4.7). In order to test the effects of soil composition and pH on blacklegged ticks, engorged nymphal ticks were collected from chipmunks trapped in the Pine Bush. The ticks were distributed through 4 soil treatments: acidic playground sand, basic playground sand, acidic unaltered Pine Bush soil, and basic (altered with CaCO3) organic Pine Bush soil. Results suggest that tick molting success was higher in the acidic soils than in basic soils, and higher in the organic Pine Bush soils than in the playground sands. Further research in this area is needed to examine the effects of soil pH and composition on blacklegged ticks as well as give insight into regions of high tick density, future range expansions, increased disease risk, and possible tick control methods.
Ahern, Kaleigh, "The Effects of Soil pH and Composition on Blacklegged Tick Molting Success Avian Window Strike Mortality on Union College Campus" (2013). Honors Theses and Student Projects. 625.