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Tick-borne Diseases Database Development Intern

Project Description: Tick-borne diseases are becoming more prevalent in USA. The overall objective of this project is to develop and compile a comprehensive public database of historical and recent tick distributions of 9 target tick species in the mainland U.S. to facilitate the development of critical risk maps and create predictive hazard assessment tools for tick-borne diseases.

This database is made publicly available through VectorMap, developed at WRBU and currently the world’s largest curated repository for vector biosurveillance distribution data, ecological niche models, and data management tools. VectorMap’s capabilities in mapping and predictive modeling of geospatial and temporal distribution patterns of disease-transmitting arthropod vectors (such as ticks, sandflys, or mosquitoes) facilitate the development of vector hazard risk assessments which can mitigate and prevent disease outbreaks and potential epidemics that may arise from the transmission of vector-borne diseases and pathogens.

VectorMap, which runs ecological niche models to generate vector disease risk maps and geospatial distribution patterns, is driven by the incorporation and assimilation of geo-referenced taxonomic point-data collection records (obtained from the scientific literature, field biosurveillance data, and digitization of curated museum physical specimens). Curating, maintaining, and updating these collection records is essential to provide VectorMap with the most up-to-date information available to generate the most accurate, reliable model predictions and vector hazard risk assessments.

For this project, the intern will be assisting in conducting a scientific literature web search, involving mining distribution data of US tick species from available databases (using search sources such as Google Scholar, Crossref, and PubMed), and entering the gleaned tick attribute data (e.g., species ID, georeferenced long-lat coordinates, date/time of collection, abundance, gender, life stage) into a database (formatted Excel CSV spreadsheet) to facilitate uploading into VectorMap.

Prerequisites: Experience with data entry in excel essential; a keen interest in vector borne disease, GIS modelling ecology/ life sciences is a plus.

Learning Objectives: The intern will be become highly adept at conducting scientific literature searches and data mining from available online databases. The student will learn the process and importance of high-quality data curation of the gleaned tick attribute data (e.g., species ID, georeferenced lon-lat coordinates, date/time of collection, abundance, gender, life stage), and will generate and learn to interpret ecological niche models and vector hazard maps.

Time Frame: Flexible on start date; prefer 1 month minimum.

Award Package: None

How to apply: 

Location: Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit, Museum Support Center (MSC), Suitland, MD.


Dr. Yvonne Linton (Research Director, WRBU)