Although the number of cases of Lyme disease has been decreasing since 2009, according to CDC, nearly 30,000 Americans fell prey to the tick-borne illness in 2012.
This summer, Evanstonian and Hamilton College junior Blaire Frett, daughter of Donna and Eugene Frett, is part of a group of student researchers assisting Associate Professor of Biology William Pfitsch with an ecological examination of the relationship between honeysuckle and tick populations. Honeysuckle is an invasive species in Upstate New York, which may be contributing to a noted increase of the prevalence of blacklegged ticks in the region.
Blaire, a biology major, is studying this correlation in several wildlife patches in the Kirkland Glen on Hamilton’s campus.
Other students will remove honey-suckle from their patches and assess
whether or not the number of ticks decreases.
“We’ve noticed a definite correlation,” said Blaire, “but that does not necessarily mean it’s the cause.” She noted that moist soil, heavy vegetative density, thick leaf litter and warm temperatures create the perfect microenvironment for ticks.
None of the students was bitten while in the field. “This project has made me rethink what I want to do after graduation,” said Blaire. “Although I thought I wanted to do lab work, being in the Glen everyday has made me seriously consider working in the field.”