NWC REU 2018
May 21 - July 31



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The Effects of Climate Change on Tick Habitat Suitability and Potential Transmission of Lyme Disease in the South Central U.S.

Quiana Berry, Adrienne Wootten, Derek Rosendahl, and Renee McPherson


What is already known:

  • Climate change is causing an increase in the reports of vector borne diseases like lyme disease which is carried by ixodes scapularis also known as black-legged ticks.
  • Humidity and temperature are important climate variables that affect the survival, development and abundance of black legged ticks.
  • As the climate changes, different areas in North America and Canada expect to see black legged ticks expand their range in these areas.

What this study adds:

  • This study uses a connection between climate variables and black legged ticks to assess the expansion of the species and subsequent Lyme disease incidence.
  • This study utilized downscaled CCSM4 model data to determine how climate may impact suitable tick habitat in the South Central United States.
  • Overall, there is expected to be a decrease in tick habitat suitability in Oklahoma and a significant increase in tick habitat suitability along the Gulf Coast of Texas.


Lyme disease is the most prevalent arthropod borne disease in the United States. The disease is transmitted to humans and other mammalian hosts through the bite of infected ixodes scapularis, better known as black-legged ticks. Established tick populations were historically reported in Eastern and Central United States. However, projections of climate change in North America suggest an increase in distribution of tick habitat suitability and subsequent Lyme disease incidence in the future. Future climate model projections serve as important tools because they can account for various future scenarios of how tick habitat suitability might change. The outcome of this research was to identify habitats of black-legged ticks by creating a logistic regression utilizing historical modeled climate data and tick data to determine future tick habitat suitability across the U.S. Tick presence was found to increase along the Gulf Coast of Texas and decrease in Oklahoma. These results can help guide the appropriate targeting of prevention efforts against populations who may be at risk of Lyme disease contraction within the South Central U.S.

Full Paper [PDF]