Researchers Discuss Ticks and Lyme Disease

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Date: April 26, 2016

Lyme disease is emerging across North America and in Michigan as the blacklegged tick that carries the disease invades new areas. You can learn about how scientists are investigating this public health issue by attending a program at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore) on May 12.

Erik Foster (Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)) and Dr. Jennifer Sidge (Michigan State University (MSU)) will present a talk entitled “Investigating the Importance of Deer for Lyme Disease Ecology: A Natural Experiment Presented by Lake Michigan Islands” on Thursday, May 12 at 9:30 a.m. at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center Auditorium in Empire, Michigan.  


How the blacklegged tick spreads and becomes established is of great interest for public health as the risk to the public from Lyme disease is dependent upon local populations of infected ticks. White-tailed deer are believed to be the most important hosts for adult blacklegged ticks and critical for its spread and maintenance, but few opportunities exist to investigate tick and disease dynamics in their absence. Two Lake Michigan islands at the National Lakeshore, one with deer and one without, presented this opportunity. 

Dr. Jennifer Sidge will discuss the implications of the findings of her research on the ecology and emergence of Lyme disease in Michigan. Her work has focused on tracking the invasion of the tick and bacterium on the mainland of the National Lakeshore and also investigating the disease ecology on both Manitou islands. Erik Foster will discuss current trends in Lyme disease in Michigan and Lyme disease prevention.

Erik Foster is a medical entomologist with the Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases Section of the MDHHS. Erik is a Detroit area native and received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in entomology from MSU. His efforts for the MDHHS focus on ecologic and human case surveillance for infectious diseases related to disease vectors and animal exposures. Using information from human and animal healthcare providers, the public, academic institutions and other partner agencies, Erik provides risk assessments and prevention and control recommendations to protect the public health. Erik is also an Army Officer serving as a Reserve entomologist for the U.S. Army Public Health Command Region South in San Antonio, Texas.

Dr. Jennifer Sidge graduated from MSU with her Bachelor of Science in 2009. She then began a dual Doctor of Veterinary Medicine/PhD program at MSU. She graduated from MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2014 and is now working for the National Lakeshore’s wildlife program as she finishes her PhD within the Comparative Medicine and Integrative Biology Program. Dr. Sidge is very interested in vector-borne infectious diseases and is focused on studying Lyme disease ecology within Michigan. 

These talks are part of a Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore speaker series called “Research Rendezvous.” To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS) and highlight the value of national parks as our nation’s “living laboratories,” the National Lakeshore is hosting a series of public talks by park researchers in 2016. All Research Rendezvous presentations offered at the National Lakeshore are free. Upcoming “Research Rendezvous” presentations include:

“Avian Botulism in Lake Michigan: How Does it Happen?” by Dr. Harvey Bootsma (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. 

“The Evolution of Slavery in Ants” by Dr. Susanne Foitzik (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany) on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. 

“Advancing Monitoring Programs at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Using DNA Technology” by Dr. Murulee Byappanahalli and Meredith Nevers (U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center) and Christopher Otto (NPS) on Thursday, June 9 at 9:30 a.m.

“Ecological Impacts of Baby's Breath (Gypsophila paniculata) Invasion and Management in Sand Dunes” by Matthew Reid (University of Louisville) on Thursday, July 14 at 9:30 a.m.

“Volunteers for Science: A Panel Discussion with Citizen Scientists at Sleeping Bear Dunes” by park volunteers Marty Litherland, Carol Linteau, Mary Ellen Newport, John Ester, Char Ester, Kevin Kinnan, Kim Kinnan, and Bill Stott on Thursday, August 11 at 10:00 a.m.

“Otter Creek Brook Trout Restoration” by Brett Fessel (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians) on Thursday, September 8 at 9:30 a.m.

Talks are scheduled once or twice a month throughout 2016, with more being added frequently. Please check our calendar for the current schedule of upcoming talks.

Last updated: April 27, 2016

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