Management of Ticks in the Northeast: Surveillance and Control Product ARENA Trials

The Suffolk County Department of Public Works (SC DPW) Division of Vector Control is in the fourth year of development of field efficacy trials of tick control products and their tick surveillance program. The surveillance program is intended to inform the county’s and others’ responses to growing tick populations, the incidence of tick-borne disease, and the expanding presence of the invasive Asian longhorned tick. In addition to efficacy assessments of specific tick control products, field trials will provide additional data following a standardized protocol to more accurately determine control and best tick management strategies based upon objective comparisons among products, application rates, and other variables such as timing and environmental conditions. Around the Northeast, most effort has focused on deer (blacklegged) ticks; work on Long Island also includes studies on lone star ticks, which are now abundant in eastern Suffolk County. As the range of this species has now expanded to western Long Island, parts of CT, RI, and MA, this work is expected to be of particular interest as human encounters in other areas increase. Asian longhorned tick is newly established in several areas around NY including eastern Long Island and expected to appear in more sites in 2021. Cornell Cooperative Extension Suffolk County staff are cooperating with the SC DPW tick entomologist on tick-related work where there is very strong interest from residents and commercial landscape care professionals. The internship fits strongly within the mission of the Northeast Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Disease.

Roles and responsibilities 

The student intern will assist with aspects of the tick control product efficacy trials and field surveillance. Activities associated with this internship include tick sampling and collection by several methods (flagging, dragging, and others); data collection, database entry, and analysis; and development of public outreach materials. Surveillance will be conducted at permanent surveillance locations and expanded to look for the invasive Asian longhorned tick. The student will work closely with Moses Cucura, tick entomologist with SC DPW Division of Vector Control. The student will receive training on COVID-19 protocols and safety, tick-borne diseases, personal safety around ticks, and handling of specimens prior to initiating field activities. In addition, work may include assisting seasonal pathogen surveillance activities with partners at the SC Department of Health and tick management program surveillance at several NYS Parks in Suffolk County.

Qualifications and previous coursework

This opportunity is available to students in Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

No prior coursework is necessary. Knowledge of field biology and entomology is desirable. A successful candidate will need to meet the travel requirements of the internship and be able to observe basic personal safety protections for handling ticks and working in environments where ticks are common and sometimes abundant.

Learning outcomes 

The student intern will gain hands-on field experience with a real-world public health entomology program, including vector management and surveillance activities in the field, and field research with direct mentorship from public health entomologists and Cornell Cooperative Extension educators. At the end of this internship period, the intern will be able to identify regional tick species, describe pathogens carried by these ticks relevant to human and animal health, safely handle and work around ticks, and learn how to conduct and interpret control product efficacy trials. In addition, the intern will learn key components of a public health surveillance program and how to translate data and information to public outreach materials and management plans.