The Tick App

Studying human behavior, tick exposure and the risk of Lyme disease using a citizen science approach via a smartphone

As part of a broader project on the dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human systems (CNHs) of Lyme disease in Northeast U.S., this study aims to assess how human behaviors and practices affect their risk of exposure to ticks, in order to better understand how and where are people most at risk. One of the limitations to understand this are the methods that have been used to gather this information. Traditionally, this information has been collected by questionnaires at the end of the high risk season or at one point in time. How people are exposed to ticks is a key piece of information to understand how different interventions to reduce the tick burden will impact on human health.

We have developed a smartphone application to collect data through simple surveys with a citizen science approach: The Tick App. This is a joint effort between partners at the NE-VBD (Diuk-Wasser lab at Columbia University) and the MW-VBD (University of Wisconsin-Madison). Through the app we also provide resources to learn more about the biology and ecology of ticks, how to identify them and protect against ticks. Users can also report any ticks they find and send us a picture of the tick. Our partners at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are offering free tick ID services as well. For non-app users, people can sign up on our website to receive the surveys by email or download a paper survey package to complete and mail back to us. We are only asking people to complete one tick diary a day for 15 days, during that time we will ask if you found any ticks that day, what did you do (from a list of activities) and if you used any preventing measures. The app is available at the app store or google play. We created The Tick App so that it can be used as a research tool that can be used extensively in different regions in the U.S. but also engages the general public in the prevention of tick-borne diseases.