Researchers searching for ticks in Anchorage, Kenai Peninsula

A student researcher at UAA looks for ticks in Anchorage. (KTUU)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Researchers with the University of Alaska are searching for ticks in Anchorage and on the Kenai Peninsula this summer as part of the first active surveillance efforts for arachnids in the state.

The state veterinarian and Department of Fish and Game biologists have had a passive tick surveillance program since 2011 and anyone who finds a tick has been able to submit the tick to the state. A grant is enabling university researchers to expand on the state's program.

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The surveillance technique UAA students will continue this summer involves dragging a piece of fabric through areas where ticks are most likely to be found. When one is found, its location will be recorded.

"It's to figure out the density and abundance of different species of ticks, both native and non-native, as well as to figure out pathogens, if they're carrying them, what pathogens they might have," said Gale Disler, a public health graduate student at UAA.

The researchers will sweep five locations in Anchorage and four locations near Soldotna every two weeks through the end of August or early September.

Grant funding allows the researchers to send any ticks found to a lab at UAF to see if they are carrying diseases.

"They pose a human health risk, but they're a health interest because they also affect wildlife and animal populations as well," Disler said.

In addition to the biological field work, computer scientists are working with biologists and public health experts to create a model that accounts for environmental variables across the state that can effectively forecast where ticks are most likely to thrive in Alaska.

Anyone who finds a tick in Alaska can learn more about submitting it to the research project HERE

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