Carrie De Jesus is a PhD Candidate in Dr. Samantha Wisely’s lab. For part of Carrie’s dissertation, she is studying how native reptiles in Florida play a role in the eco-epidemiology of Lyme disease. In Florida, lizards are important hosts for the immature stages of the black legged tick (Ixodes scapularis). The immature ticks are the most important life stage for Lyme disease transmission. Immature ticks are the size of sesame seed and are easily missed during a tick check, allowing the tick time to transmit the Lyme disease bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) to its host. Carrie’s goal is to determine if lizards in Florida are infected with Lyme disease bacterium.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Carrie has had to work to adjust her plans to her field research. She originally planned to start in May but the closure of state parks and a “safer at home” plan pushed back the start to late June. All six of her field sites were shut down temporarily to researchers, but have since reopened. She has been in constant contact with site managers, her advisor and the graduate school to determine best practices to keep her and her technicians safe during the field season.
Carrie and her field technicians will have to work together while social distancing. Their field trucks will now also include a hand washing station, extra face masks and hand sanitizer. Carrie and her team also took part in the University of Florida COVID-19 testing to ensure everyone is healthy before heading into the field.
On the bright side, the delay has allowed Carrie more time to prepare for her field season. She has used this time to build lizard traps, gather supplies and even pre-treat her clothes with permethrin to keep herself safe from ticks and mosquitoes. With the field season starting soon, Carrie is excited to go out there and collect some lizards.
We asked Carrie what her tips are for preparing a field season in a pandemic. She said, “Have constant communication, and be flexible, since the world our world is constantly changing.”
We look forward to checking back with Carrie after her field season!