W & M Digest - Jan. 6

The Virginia Gazette

Researchers look at ticks, tick-borne disease, land management

Local research is finding that lots of ticks are actually a lot closer than we realize, and hope to use the information to manage land, resources and neighborhoods better.

"Deer love that, because they can hide in the forest and sneak out and eat your roses and whatever you grow in your backyard," said Matthias Leu, an ecologist with the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg.

Ticks hitch a ride on deer and into your back yard and life. Researchers are looking at what they call the "Socionatural Tick-borne Disease Nexus," and are conducting their research with the help of students and local scientists enlisted over the summer to collect ticks and send them in for analysis.

That relationship between land management and the uptick in ticks and tick-borne diseases over the last decade is the subject of a long-term study being conducted by Leu and two of other associate professors at the college.

One ultimate goal, said environmental sociologist Brent Kaup, is to better inform land management.

"So if the results of our study demonstrate that a certain zoning policy is actually influencing things, then we could say, are those policies the best for decreasing (tick-bourne) disease rates? And, if not, what can we do about it? Or is it even desirable to do anything about it?"

Less than 5 percent of the roughly 1,000 ticks collected for the study each year, mostly on the Peninsula, are either blacklegged ticks or American dog ticks. The rest, or about 95 percent, are lone star ticks — by far the most common species in Virginia and the South.

Students at the college also do their part by venturing to field sites around the Peninsula to drag a piece of white canvas over the ground for ticks to latch onto.

Meyers-Stern scholarship sends student to study in Israel

William and Mary student Josh Kim, an international relations major, completed a semester abroad this fall at Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv, Israel as one of the first recipients of the new Meyers-Stern Scholarship.

Started in 2014, the Meyers-Stern Endowment was created to allow William and Mary students to further their studies in Israel. The endowment also pays for guest lectures, conferences and visiting professors in Judaic studies.

Kim's primary goal in studying abroad at Tel Aviv University was to deepen his understanding of ancient biblical Hebrew and to gain a better understanding of the political and economic tensions in the Middle East.

"I've helped put together a presentation for an event commemorating the Egyptian intellectual Ali Salem," said Kim. "I am currently working at the press archives scanning old Syrian newspapers from the early 1970s to create an electronic database for researchers."

Kim is the third student to receive the Meyers-Stern Scholarship. Stephanie Hertzenberg and Brian Jenkins went on an archaeological dig in 2015

Students help with neutrino work at Small Hall

William and Mary has a number of physicists who collaborate with the NOvA neutrino experiment, as well as other neutrino experiments across the world. Now, members of the Williamsburg team don't have to go to the Fermilab to work — they can stand their shifts on the third floor of Small Hall.

The NOvA remote control facility was funded from Patricia Vahle's CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation. A testing and calibration period was followed by a set of "shadow shifts," explained Vahle, associate professor of physics.

The shadow shifts are like driver's training lessons for physicists, she said, as the William and Mary physicists are being monitored by Fermilab personnel until the Small Hall facility and individuals using it all become certified.

NOvA and other experiments are collecting data that will one day yield an explanation of the physical laws governing oscillation and other neutrino phenomena. Neutrinos themselves are produced by the sun's fusion furnace (and also by all other stars).

Nuclear power plants emit neutrinos. Neutrinos produced by the Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago are still zooming through matter as if it wasn't there.

Compiled by education reporter Michele Canty, who can be reached at (757) 345-2341.

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