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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Arlington High School, LaGrangeville, New York, USA

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Arlington High School, LaGrangeville, New York, USA


Registered: December 2012
City/Town/Province: Poughkeepsie
Posts: 1
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We watched silently as Kelly Oggenfuss slid her hand swiftly into the small, metal Sherman trap. Seconds later, her hand emerged, gripped carefully around the scruff of a frightened mouse’s neck. Kelly quickly, but thoroughly, checked the mouse’s ears, head, and body for ticks. When she was finished, she set the mouse down on the soft forest floor and let it scamper quietly away. Kelly made this look all so simple and easy, but it most certainly was not, as my fellow researcher, Sid Marthi, and I soon discovered.
I am part of a science research team in Arlington High School called the Elymenators, under the direction of Mrs. Maribel Pregnall. Our project is directed at researching the prevalence of Lyme Disease in the Dutchess County (which has one of the highest incidence rates of Lyme Disease in the world), conducting research to learn more about the disease and how it can be stopped, and raising awareness to communicate our knowledge to others. As part of our project, Sid and I traveled to the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York. We helped Kelly Oggenfuss, Suellen Jacob, and their team of fieldworkers in their ecological research of ticks and Lyme Disease. Our team has been working to replicate many of the experiments of Kelly, Suellen, Dr. Richard Ostfeld, Mr. Taal Levi, and other tick specialists in Cary Institute. At Cary, the researchers have found that tick populations are rising not due to deer populations, but to the rising coyote populations, and our research project is mainly focused on proving that their hypothesis also applies to our school environment. This correlation is due to the fact that as humans have overpopulated certain areas, they have killed off the wolf populations, which have been supplanted by coyote populations. In areas with more coyotes, foxes (the natural predators of mice) are displaced by the coyotes. Hence, there are more mice, and mice are the main vectors for ticks carrying the disease. Thus, the massive spread of Lyme disease can be attributed a great deal to humans--this is just one of the many adverse effects of a growing global population.
Our group has been attempting to replicate the field studies done at Cary Institute. So far, we have set out over ten track plates and a wildlife camera to create an ecological survey of our schoolyard and a surrounding park. With our track plates, we discovered the presence of mice, frogs, and we believe that we even found a coyote print. Therefore, we have already drawn a correlation between the coyote populations and mice populations, but we will continue to conduct field studies to gather numerical data and completely prove that this correlation exists. We have also begun conducting a tick-dragging procedure which will estimate the amount of ticks per square meter in our area.
Our project is two-pronged--in addition to conducting field studies with Cary Institute and partnering with researchers from Vassar College, we have been focusing on Lyme disease prevention and awareness. As a group, we believe that public awareness is the single most important way to stop the spread of Lyme Disease. We traveled to the Arthur S. May Elementary School to give a presentation and play an educational game with 4th grade classes. With the children, we discussed both how Lyme disease harms individual organisms as well as basic Lyme disease prevention techniques. In addition, we set up booths at our school’s Open House and an environmental awareness event to distribute flyers to children and adults and teach them about the role of predators in the environment. At these booths, we had over 400 people pledge to protect themselves from Lyme Disease and teach others about what they learned. In early December, we gave presentations about our research to local community leaders at meetings for the Dutchess County EMC and the Town of LaGrange CAC. Through these educational events, we hope to prepare our both our current and future generations for interacting with ticks. We also made a public service announcement to pique viewers’ interests (, set up an informational Facebook group page (, created an informational and interactive website to teach and entertain both children and adults (
While we have achieved a significant amount so far, our project is still not complete and we have many goals for the future. For instance, we plan on continuing our field studies near our school--we will purchase Sherman traps, more track plates, and more cameras to replicate the studies done at Cary Institute. Plus, we will need to expand our research sites to obtain more data samples and so that we can determine whether our data is significant or not. Secondly, we have designed surveys and flyers to distribute locally and abroad at international hospitals. By doing so, we plan on gathering data about global familiarity with Lyme Disease and educating international communities to increase the scope of our impact. Third, we are planning to give presentations to high school AP Biology classes and middle school science classes in early January and we will be filming a music video/fashion show to show kids that wearing clothes to protect themselves from Lyme Disease does not have to be unfashionable. Finally, the group is looking to expand our research from only Lyme Disease to Babesiosis in the coming months. Babesiosis is an equally critical problem in our area, and since it is not as well-known as Lyme Disease, it is almost more important that we research and spread the word about Babesiosis in our community. To expand our project in this way, we will be learning more about Babesiosis by video chatting with Dr. Ostfeld, interviewing local veterinarians, and meeting with the Dutchess Land Conservancy.
In the coming months, we will continue our research and local/global community education about basic protection from Lyme Disease. After all, our group believes that the easiest and most important way people can protect themselves from anything is to become educated about the topic at hand.
Date: December 29, 2012 Views: 48275 File size: 13.0kb : 244 x 288
Hours Volunteered: 1444
Volunteers: 5
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 16 to 17
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 4.4
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