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Find a tick? This New Hampshire researchers wants it 

  • courtesy—BeBop Labs



Monitor staff
Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Ticks are everywhere this year, judging from my experience and the experience of everybody I’ve talked to in central and southern New Hampshire – but what’s it like closer to the Notches and the North Country?

“We do know that ticks are moving, but we don’t know how far north, and don’t know about elevation change,” said Kaitlyn Morse, a biology lecturer at Plymouth State University. She’s the driving force behind a project called BeBop Labs (online at bebop-labs.com) that seeks to answer this question through crowdsourcing and help people better judge the danger.

She’s in the process of gathering data, which means getting people to send her the ticks they pluck off their clothing or (yuck) their skin, along with information about when and where it was found. Following analysis about what diseases each tick is carrying, the goal is to create information that is time-and-place-specific about the risk of Lyme and other vector-borne diseases.

“If you were to go to one of our local parks, Fox Park, there would be a sign there at the trail saying, ‘Save your ticks,’ as well as, ‘This is your chance of getting bitten by an infected tick,’ ” Morse said.

Morse describes BeBop Labs, named after her chocolate Laborador retriever, as a sort of spin-off from ongoing work by herself and others at Plymouth State University. The idea is to combine research into tick-borne disease, GIS mapping and sociological research on the one hand with outreach and public education on the other.

Part of the issue it’s tackling, she said, is that as southern New England and the southern and coastal parts of New Hampshire have become aware of the presence and danger of diseases spread by ticks, there is less concern north of the Lakes Region, where the weather means ticks have traditionally not been viewed as a major problem. Uncovering those attitudes is as important to public health as gathering basic epidemiological and biological data, she said.

“The PSU epidemiology project is doing sociological surveys to get a better understanding of what residents, student and health care practitioners know about ticks and tick-borne disease,” she said.

Morse is seeking nonprofit status for BeBop Labs. She’d like to develop a model for gathering and disseminating information about tick-borne diseases from Plymouth on north, and extrapolate to other public health issues affected by changing climate, such as the arrival of new microbes in the environment, so communities can “take charge of their own health” to help control costs as well as improve their well-being.

The application for nonprofit status puts it succinctly: “Knowledge is power.”

MAIL YOUR TICKS

Put your tick in a zip-close bag and send it to:

Dr. Kaitlyn Morse

Tick Collection

P.O. Box 183

Ashland, NH 03217

Be sure to include the date, the street address or coordinates where you found the tick, and specifics about how you found it (like on your dog’s leg).

MORE INFO: bebop-labs.com

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.co or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)