While most people spend their summers avoiding ticks, graduate student Leah Cuthill hopes to find them. She and Assistant Professor Anuradha  

A tick study in local wildlife areas is giving students field and lab experience while providing scientists valuable data. 

Ghosh have been collecting them as part of a four-year surveillance study and research project that could shed some light on tick prevalence and tick-borne illnesses in Southeast Kansas.  

Ticks carry the pathogen for Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, Ehrlichiosis, and host other potentially serious illnesses; Cuthill was inspired to do the project by a potential tick-borne illness she contracted.   

“This area is a hub for ticks because of the heat and high humidity,” Ghosh said. “As our climate warms, ticks are prevailing in this direction following the migration of their hosts — they’re very sensitive to temperatures and humidity. We’re studying the distribution of various tick species and whether it’s going up or down. We’re watching for an invasion, as well.”  

After collecting ticks in small vials from several locations, they freeze them in the lab in the Biology Department, where they are able to identify the tick species and do a molecular analysis to determine what pathogens the ticks carry.