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Tick-Tock the Outbreak Clock – Developing Risk Maps for Tick-Borne Diseases in USA



VectorMap ( is the World’s largest curated global repository for vector biosurveillance distribution data, ecological niche models, and data management tools. Developed at the Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit—a U.S. Army Unit housed within the Smithsonian  Institution National Museum of Natural History—VectorMap guides the development of vector ecological niche of habitat suitability models, and generate vector hazard risk assessments which proactively predict and mitigate disease of vector-borne disease across the globe. Critical to this effort is maintaining, curating and updating available collection records is essential in order to provide VectorMap with the most up-to-date information available to generate the most accurate, reliable model predictions and vector hazard risk assessments.

The overall objective of this project is to develop and compile a comprehensive public database of historical and current tick distributions of the nine most important tick species in the continental U.S. to facilitate the development of critical tick risk maps and hazard assessments for tick-borne diseases in USA.

Prerequisites: Careful data entry skills, competency in Excel. A keen interest in environmental, ecological, life sciences, especially arthropod vectors of disease is a plus. Access to a this project will be remotely supervised due to COVID.  Interns will need to have their own computer and software to work remotely.

Learning Objectives: The student will be remotely mentored due to COVID facilities closure and will be expected to attend bi-weekly teleconferences with their advisor to ensure continued learning and productivity, one will be with the Tick-Tock project team, and another being the weekly WRBU laboratory meetings.

For this project, the intern will conduct a state-wide scientific literature web search to determine state tick distributions from available databases (using search sources such as Google Scholar, CrossREF, and PubMed), and will learn to curate and correctly georeference data. Associated data will include species ID, georeferenced longitude-latitude coordinates, date/time of collection, abundance, gender, life stage etc.) before building a formatted Excel CSV spreadsheet for upload into VectorMap. Once completed, the student will learn to create publishable quality maps in ARC-GIS, and will create MAXimum-ENTrophy models to model the risk of tick-borne pathogens in their U.S. State of interest. Prior to completing this internship, the student will generate a scientific poster showcasing their findings and will remotely present the poster to the WRBU Team by teleconferencing. A copy of the poster will be mailed to the student when access to the Unit is unrestricted.

Time Frame: June – September 2020


Location: Remote (teleworking due to COVID)

Department: NMNH-Entomology, Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit (WRBU)

HOW TO APPLY: Interested students should provide a complete and current resume/cv; a brief cover letter explaining their qualifications, reason for interest in the internship, learning objectives for the virtual internship project; and the contact information for three professional references. Please assemble all materials into a single document and include your last name in the file name. Send the document as an attachment via email to the contact listed below.


Yvonne-Marie Linton