Date of Award

Summer 8-20-2021

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Ecology and Environmental Sciences


Sandra De Urioste-Stone

Second Committee Member

Allison Gardner

Third Committee Member

Linda Silka


Tick-borne diseases (TBDs) are a growing concern throughout the United States. Maine’s reliance on nature-based tourism as an industry and its proximity to the epicenter of Lyme disease in the northeast makes the state vulnerable to the negative consequences related to further spread of TBDs. Acadia National Park and the state’s recreational areas should be a focus of tick-disease-related research because of the influx of visitors to natural areas during the summer and fall -- the seasons that correlate with the majority of tick-borne infections. In 2019 alone Acadia National Park received nearly 3.5 million visitors, making the park one of the most visited in the United States National Park system (National Park Service, 2019). Previous research has evaluated risk perceptions related to tick-borne diseases, but there are limited contemporary studies in Maine. Understanding how Maine resident and non-resident outdoor recreationists evaluate the risk of tick-borne diseases and their behavior choices related to protective measures against these diseases is crucial to creating future intervention plans. This study included two different components; the first involved the statistical analysis of previouslycollected survey data on Acadia National Park visitor tick-borne disease perception and behaviors. Data were collected during the summer-early fall 2019 seasons. Visitors were categorized into two distinct groups: those from areas endemic for Lyme disease and those from regions not endemic for Lyme. Results showed statistically significant differences in perceived risk of tick-borne diseases and tick-preventive behaviors between groups. This thesis also focused on the implementation of an additional online survey instrument that targeted Maine outdoor recreationists--Maine residents that participate in outdoor recreation activities. Analyses were conducted to explore differences in risk perceptions, trust, and behaviors based on political affiliation. Significant differences in knowledge and informational trust were documented between members of separate groups. The final component included a comparative analysis of Maine residents and non-residents suing data from both surveys. Further significant differences were found between the two groups, including differences in perceived barriers, utilization of certain protective measures, and overall perceived risk. This thesis aims to (1) expand understanding of differences that may exist among groups in terms of knowledge, tick-borne disease preventive behavior, and risk perceptions in the context of TBD, (2) help identify gaps in knowledge of tick-borne diseases of outdoor recreationists, and (3) inform further measures to enhance the effectiveness of communication tools and identify potential communication strategies in the state of Maine.