Management of Ticks in the Northeast

Worksite Location
Suffolk County
Project Dates
May 28, 2019 – August 10, 2019, or when student returns to Cornell
Faculty Sponsor
Laura Harrington
Other Campus-Based Mentors/Supervisors
Emily Mader
Field Mentors/Supervisors
Dan Gilrein, CCE Suffolk County
Wages Up To
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

The Suffolk County Department of Public Works (SC DPW) Division of Vector Control is in the second year of development of a tick surveillance program and field efficacy trials of tick control products. The surveillance program is intended to inform the County’s and others’ responses to growing tick populations, incidence of tick-borne disease, and the expanding presence of the invasive Asian longhorned tick. In addition to actual efficacy assessments, these trials will provide additional data following a standardized protocol for field research to more accurately determine control and best management strategies based upon objective comparisons among products, application rates and other variables such as timing and environmental conditions. Around the Northeast, most effort has focused on deer (blacklegged) tick; work on Long Island also includes studies on lone star ticks, which are now abundant in eastern Suffolk County. As the range of this species has now expanded to western Long Island, parts of CT, RI and MA, this work is expected to be of particular interest as human encounters in other areas increase. In CCE of Suffolk County staff are cooperating with the SC DPW Tick Entomologist on tick-related work where there is very strong interest from residents and commercial landscape care professionals.

Roles and Responsibilities

The student intern will assist with aspects of the field survey and efficacy trials. Activities associated with this internship include flagging, dragging, and other tick sampling and collecting methods; data collection and database entry; and development of public outreach materials. Surveillance will be conducted at permanent surveillance locations and expanded to look for the invasive Asian longhorned tick recently identified as established in several neighboring states and counties within New York. The student will work closely with Moses Cucura, Tick Entomologist with SC DPW Division of Vector Control, and prior to initiating field activities will receive training on tick-borne diseases, personal safety around ticks, and handling of specimens. In addition, work may include assisting seasonal pathogen surveillance activities with partners at the SC Department of Health and tick management program surveillance at several NYS Parks in Suffolk.

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

No prior coursework is necessary, although knowledge of field biology and entomology is desirable. The successful candidate will need to meet travel requirements of the internship and be able to observe basic personal safety protections for handling ticks and in environments where ticks are common and sometimes abundant. 

Benefits and Skills

The student intern will gain hands-on field experience with a real-world public health entomology program, including vector management and surveillance activities in the field, and field research with direct mentorship from public health entomologists and Cornell Extension educators. At the end of this internship period, the intern will be able to identify regional tick species, describe pathogens carried by these ticks relevant to human and animal health, safely handle and work around ticks, and learn how to conduct and interpret efficacy trials. In addition, the intern will learn key components of a public health surveillance program and how to translate data and information to public outreach materials and management plans.