The Yukon Winter Tick Monitoring Project
Winter ticks are fairly recent arrivals to Yukon, and as such, many people aren't familiar with their presence. I set up the Yukon Winter Tick Monitoring Project (YWTMP) as a way of providing materials for my collaborators at the Animal Health Unit (Department of Environment, Government of Yukon) to assist ongoing data collection, engage key stakeholder groups and members of the public in Yukon.
CITIZEN SCIENCE | PRINTED MATERIALS | SOCIAL MEDIA | COLLABORATIVE PARTNERSHIPS
Hide Submissions Scheme
Increasing our understanding of on-host dynamics in Yukon
In 2019, in collaboration with YG Animal Health Unit, I launched a new hunter hide submissions scheme to increase the number of samples of moose and caribou hides brought to AHU for winter tick checks. Because many hides are too large to be brought from the field, this extension to the existing submissions scheme centred on allowing hunters to bring a smaller sample, and has a ready-to-go kit with a template and instructions. Each sample received a gift to thank participants.
By March 2020, 78 samples of moose and caribou had been received, compared with an annual average of just 3 in previous years (2012-2019), and confirmed winter tick presence on moose in new areas of Southern Yukon.
Right: YWTMP display for the Hide Submissions Scheme, with sample kit and information cards at Environment Yukon, Client Services, Fall 2019. (Image: E. S. Chenery)
Mobile app and online reporting mechanism
The YWTMP on iNaturalist.ca is a Citizen Science project, giving Yukoners another means to upload and share images of potential winter ticks, or host animals with possible winter tick -related hair loss.
I also share some observations of larval winter ticks on here, along with a journal of what to look for at key times in the winter tick year.
Left: Screenshots from YWTMP on iNaturalist.ca (2020). Observations are geolocated photographs, providing images and maps that are assessed by a community of experts online.
Keeping the public informed and engaged on winter tick research in Yukon
YWTMP has a designated Facebook page where I share updates on winter tick research, including my fieldwork in Yukon. It also provides a simple platform to share key resources, such as informational postcards with colour pictures, videos, and downloadable observation forms, and a means of contact where photos can be shared directly.
On Twitter, I share updates from the field (@emilychenery), using the handle #wintertick and #tickymoose.