WCSU professor receives largest research grant in university history
Funds from CDC to eradicate ticks

DANBURY, CONN. Dr. Neeta Connally — associate professor of biological and environmental sciences at Western Connecticut State University — will receive an estimated $1.6 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) over the next four years for tick research. It is the largest research grant in the university’s history.

The grant will fund a four-year integrated tick management study that aims to bridge the gap between tick control research and human behavior with the ultimate goal of combatting Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. WCSU biology majors will participate in the study through a summer internship program.

“Many people who get Lyme disease are exposed to disease-transmitting ticks in their own backyards,” Connally said. “We hope to better understand backyard strategies for preventing Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses in our local communities.”

The study is a collaborative effort between WCSU, the CDC, and co-principal investigator, Dr. Thomas Mather, professor and director of the TickEncounter Resource Center at the University of Rhode Island. Tick samples will be taken from 200 homes in western Connecticut, including the towns of Bethel, Newtown and Ridgefield, and from several southern Rhode Island towns.

Connally said the study will include spraying the property to kill ticks and placing treated rodent-bait boxes to reduce ticks that infest mice. The properties sampled will be adjacent, and some will receive placebo treatments. As the study also provides for research on human behavior, WCSU Professor of Psychology Dr. Daniel Barrett, who specializes in social psychology, will assess how people affect their risk of exposure to ticks on their own property.

WCSU student interns will collect the ticks by dragging a flannel cloth through tick-dense areas such as wooded perimeters. As many as 700 ticks an hour at a Newtown site have been collected in a past study, Connally said. The ticks are then sent to the CDC for testing. Tick abundance will be compared between treated and untreated (placebo) properties; human tick encounters will be recorded and compared using a novel crowd-sourced reporting system.

An expert on Lyme disease and other tick-borne maladies, Connally joined the WCSU biology department in 2011. She was formerly an associate research scientist at Yale School of Public Health. In her research lab at WCSU, students learn about ecology, epidemiology and prevention of tick-borne diseases through internships such as those funded through the CDC grant.

Connally said there are several diseases that can be transmitted by the blacklegged tick, commonly called the “deer tick”: anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Lyme disease, Powassan encephalitis and a newly identified relapsing fever borreliosis. The CDC estimates that 300,000 people are infected with Lyme disease every year and that 96 percent of the reported cases are from 14 states including Rhode Island and Connecticut.

 

 

Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.

 

Connect with Us!

News Feeds (RSS)

Calendar Feeds (iCal)

WCSU Weather Information

Current Conditions in Danbury


Fair
Current Conditions

55.1° F
Feels like N/A°

Wind: 7MPH from the S
Humidity: N/A%
Pressure: 30 in.
Dew Point: N/A° F


Emergency / Weather Alert Information

The Emergency / Weather Alert will be posted on the WCSU home page any time an emergency or bad weather causes a delay, cancellation or early closing of the university.

Weather Alert Example

 Visit the Emergency / Weather Alert page

Greater Danbury 5-Day Forecast

Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Slight chance for a morning shower, partly sunny and pleasant.
Partly sunny and pleasant.
Mostly cloudy, chance for some showers.
Chance for morning rain then some afternoon sunshine.
Mostly sunny and mild.
36° / 59° 34° / 56° 36° / 43° 39° / 54° 33° / 54°