As part of their research on human exposure to ticks, Columbia University has 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 Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases and the Midwest Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases. The Tick App allows users to log in daily activities and their tick encounters. Users can also report any ticks they find and send pictures of the tick. The team then identifies the tick and sends the report back to the user on the tick species and stage. This gives them a sense of overall tick populations, and a better understanding of how people interact with their surroundings and get exposed to ticks. Other features of the app alert the users of tick activity in the area, promote preventative measures, and provide educational resources about tick ecology and prevention.
The app is available for free at the App Store or Google Play, and could be used as a passive surveillance tool for tick exposure. As of May 2020, there have been more than 3000 downloads. As more people participate through the app, the Tick App team can better understand tick exposure patterns over time in specific locations. This year, they are aiming to partner with health departments and vector control units across the Northeast region to promote The Tick App and, in turn, receive tick encounter data aggregated at a zip code level. This data would help the recipient health department identify tick risk in their area of influence. For more information on potential partnerships, please contact Maria Diuk-Wasser at email@example.com.