Project Vector Shield

Monitoring ticks and mosquitoes

Deer ticks, or blacklegged ticks (top), are a common carrier for the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Project Vector Shield researchers confirmed a Gulf Coast tick in southern Indiana in 2019 (bottom left). Another tick species (bottom right) was discovered clinging to the face of a white-footed mouse during a tick-collection trip by the lab of IU professor Keith Clay. Photos by USDA ARS (top), Smith Collection - Getty Images (bottom left), and the Clay Lab (bottom right)

Changes in climate and human activities can contribute to the movement of disease vectors, such as ticks and mosquitoes, into new geographic regions. The only way to detect these movements is through regular, long-term data collection.

By establishing Project Vector Shield, IU researchers are creating a long-term surveillance network for assessing disease risk from ticks and mosquitoes, which can transmit diseases such as Lyme Disease and West Nile virus. Accordingly, the researchers are sampling the same sites using the same methodologies for multiple years to develop a multi-year database.

In 2018 the researchers established a network of 20 sites in Indiana for repeated sampling split between rural regions and urban, suburban and exurban areas where the risk of human exposure to ticks and mosquitoes is greatest. With support from the Indiana University Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics, the Indiana State Department of Health, and IU School of Medicine Professor Ryan Relich, Project Vector Shield will provide valuable information to policymakers, researchers and citizens on protecting against new disease threats.

Research Team

Project Lead

  • Keith Clay, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Tulane University 

Collaborators

  • Ryan Relich, Department of Clinical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, School of Medicine, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis
  • Karo Omodior, Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies, School of Public Health, Indiana University Bloomington