The Blacklegged Tick (Ixodes scapularis) is an arthropod currently undergoing range expansion, and is of concern as a vector for the transmission of Lyme Disease (caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi). However, not much is known about the factors controlling the tick's geographic distribution in New Brunswick.
This research will develop a geodatabase to bring together tick distribution data for the province of New Brunswick, current and projected climatic conditions, and forest land cover. Current information about the distribution of the Blacklegged Tick, obtained from passive surveillance, will be combined with current climate data. Using a cutting-edge modelling framework, the climatic response of the tick will be quantified and an ensemble prediction (derived from a number of flexible modelling methods) used to map the future climate-suitability envelope for the species.
This project will help identify "source" areas - or colonizing points for expanding black tick populations - that will have bearing on land use planning and sustainable development.
Furthermore, It is expected that communication of the projectís findings will enhance public awareness and help reduce the number of human cases of tick-borne lyme disease.
This research will also develop general techniques for constructing climate-habitat distribution models that can be used to measure habitat suitability for any species. It is expected that future work will apply these tools and innovations to study other species considered at-risk for extinction, or of concern as an invasive.