The risk of contracting a tick borne illness in any given area is related to the density and infection rate of the ticks in that area. However, few studies in Texas have looked at how tick densities and infection rates vary in different environments. In order to better understand which areas in Texas may pose a higher risk to humans, sampling ticks in different environments and testing them for the presence of tick borne diseases is necessary. In this study multiple sites representing different environments across Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA) have been selected. The different environments at LLELA were identified using GIS files created as part of the Ecological Systems Classification of Texas project. At each site grid cells of twenty feet by twenty feet were identified and marked with a minimum of 15 cells being identified for each environment type. Every other week starting in the middle of June ticks will be sampled from each site using the commonly used dragging method of collection. All ticks gathered will be labeled with the site, grid cell, date and time. After collection the species and level of development of each tick will be identified and each tick will be screened for disease causing bacteria from genera Borrelia, Rickettsia, and Ehrlichia with genus-specific PCRs.
The data gathered will be used to look at tick densities and infection rates of each genus by tick species and by environment. Any variations within environments will also be looked at to determine if there may be certain characteristics within each environment that may impact tick densities and infection rates. All data gathered will be used to determine what landscape/environmental characteristics may be associated with increased tick-borne disease risk in Texas. Hopefully I will be able to use this information to further create a model to identify areas of Texas that may have similar risk to the areas sampled at LLELA.