Predicting the current and future distribution of the western black-legged tick, Ixodes pacificus, across the Western US using citizen science collections

W. Tanner Porter, Zachary A. Barrand, Julie Wachara, Kaila DaVall, Joseph R. Mihaljevic, Talima Pearson, Daniel J. Salkeld, Nathan C. Nieto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


In the twenty-first century, ticks and tick-borne diseases have expanded their ranges and impact across the US. With this spread, it has become vital to monitor vector and disease distributions, as these shifts have public health implications. Typically, tick-borne disease surveillance (e.g., Lyme disease) is passive and relies on case reports, while disease risk is calculated using active surveillance, where researchers collect ticks from the environment. Case reports provide the basis for estimating the number of cases; however, they provide minimal information on vector population or pathogen dynamics. Active surveillance monitors ticks and sylvatic pathogens at local scales, but it is resource-intensive. As a result, data are often sparse and aggregated across time and space to increase statistical power to model or identify range changes. Engaging public participation in surveillance efforts allows spatially and temporally diverse samples to be collected with minimal effort. These citizen-driven tick collections have the potential to provide a powerful tool for tracking vector and pathogen changes. We used MaxEnt species distribution models to predict the current and future distribution of Ixodes pacificus across the Western US through the use of a nationwide citizen science tick collection program. Here, we present niche models produced through citizen science tick collections over two years. Despite obvious limitations with citizen science collections, the models are consistent with previously-predicted species ranges in California that utilized more than thirty years of traditional surveillance data. Additionally, citizen science allows for an expanded understanding of I. pacificus distribution in Oregon and Washington. With the potential for rapid environmental changes instigated by a burgeoning human population and rapid climate change, the development of tools, concepts, and methodologies that provide rapid, current, and accurate assessment of important ecological qualities will be invaluable for monitoring and predicting disease across time and space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0244754
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1 January
StatePublished - Jan 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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