Lyme Disease is the most common vector-borne illness in the United States, affecting approximately 450,000 people each year. It is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a spirochete bacterium that is passed between wildlife and humans by the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis, Figure 1). Surprisingly little is known about the prevalence of B. burgdorferi infection among ticks anywhere in Ohio, so there is a need for reliable data that can be used to evaluate Lyme Disease risk. Examining pathogen prevalence in ticks can be conducted safely in the high school biology lab, engages students in using technology to extract, amplify, and evaluate DNA samples, and can connect students with core concepts of biology—ecology, genetics, evolution—while investigating a real-world, locally relevant public health challenge. In this workshop, participants will collect and analyze ticks for B. burgdorferi, examine tick habitat associations, and develop strategies to engage their students in studying Lyme Disease.
What is this?
A 2 day (June 14 9am-4pm and June 15 9am-4pm) workshop for high school life science teachers and environmental educators. Participants will earn 13 contact hours of professional development (one hour of graduate credit will also be available for a fee).
What will participants do?
Participants in this workshop will:
- Learn about the anatomy, identification, life-history, and ecology of locally relevant tick species.
- Evaluate habitats to estimate tick densities.
- Extract DNA from ticks and use Polymerase Chain Reaction to amplify DNA of Borrelia burgdorferi, the pathogen that causes Lyme Disease.
- Evaluate tick DNA for the presence of B. burgdorferi using gel electrophoresis.
- Develop strategies for implementing this activity with their classes.