Tick Research Updates From the Field – Week 1

Kaitlin McDonald, Dartmouth PhD Student

We had a very successful first sampling session at VINS! We sampled at three different sites, two of which are on the VINS campus. When we talk about sampling, we mean that we are observing the local fauna through a couple of different ways.

Sampling for ticks

The first way is to “drag” for ticks. This is a common technique used in the study of ticks and it involves a large white square of cloth. We take this white cloth, which is attached to a wooden pole, and we drag it along the ground for a specified distance, taking care to ensure that as much of the cloth touches the ground as possible. Afterwards, we stop and flip the cloth over and look for any ticks that may have attached to the cloth. Depending on the time of year, we may find anything from a larval tick to an adult tick. We count these ticks and this turns into one way to estimate how many ticks are in an area. We found quite a few ticks this time around, so be sure to check yourself for ticks after time outdoors!

Kaitlin McDonald uses a drag cloth to sample for ticks
Madeleine Wallace removes ticks from the drag cloth
Vial of collected ticks from a drag transect

Sampling for small mammals

Another way we observe the local fauna is to capture small mammals. We do this by placing live traps out in the field and baiting them with apples and peanut butter. A live trap is a type of trap that doesn’t harm the animal it catches, it simply keeps them safely contained until we can observe them. In this sampling session, we caught a variety of small mammals including mice and flying squirrels! We take the health and safety of both humans and animals very seriously so if you see these traps on your nature walks at VINS, please leave them be!

Sherman live animal trap on VINS campus
Kaitlin with a Woodland Jumping Mouse
Jim Armbruster with a Flying Squirrel

Sampling for meso-predators

The last way we are observing fauna for this study is by using camera traps. Camera traps are cameras specially designed with a sensor that detects movement. If something crosses in front of a camera trap, the sensor detects movement and snaps a picture (without flash!). This is a useful way to understand what kinds of animals live in VINS campus that are otherwise too difficult to catch. We haven’t checked our cameras yet, but VINS has been using these cameras for a while, check out some of what they’ve caught on camera: 

A Red Fox on VINS campus near one of our research plots
Wild Turkey
White-tailed Deer

Results From Week 1 at VINS

That’s all from our first sampling session, stay tuned for future notes from the field!


  1. Noah willims on September 14, 2023 at 9:53 am

    this is amazing info. i like this

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