Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Lyme disease, blacklegged ticks, dilution effect, white-footed mice, disease ecology

Major Advisor

Isaac M. Ortega

Associate Advisor

Scott C. Williams

Associate Advisor

Anita T. Morzillo

Associate Advisor

Chadwick D. Rittenhouse

Associate Advisor

Kirby C. Stafford III

Field of Study

Natural Resources: Land, Water, and Air


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The research discussed in this dissertation examined host and habitat composition in Connecticut and their effect on the ecology of Lyme disease. Previous studies on management strategies sought a one-size-fits-all solution. However, Connecticut may require its own implementation of management strategies supported by research executed in its respective environment. Therefore, a novel approach that addresses the key components of a particular habitat, in this case Connecticut’s northern hardwood forests with an invasive plant understory, may yield better results than a “silver bullet” solution produced by a model or conducted in a different geographic location.

My research is conducted in Connecticut backyards and woodlands. Therefore, the results and management strategies proposed through the product of my research will be directed towards decreasing the prevalence of ticks and B. burgdorferi in this state. My findings will manage for the composition of hosts and habitat specific to this area. The product of my research will be a long-term solution to the ecological issues that are causing the rise in tick populations and subsequent Lyme disease prevalence in Connecticut.

In order to accomplish this goal, the following objectives were compiled: 1) To further define the relationship between blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) and invasive plant species in Connecticut, specifically Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii); 2) To determine the underlying causal mechanism between Japanese barberry and the primary reservoir for B. burgdorferi, white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus); and 3) To apply the theory of dilution effect on the density and dispersion of B. burgdorferi in Connecticut.

Available for download on Wednesday, December 12, 2018