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


Carly Sponarski

Second Committee Member

Jessica Leahy

Third Committee Member

Allison Gardner


Lyme disease (LD), a tick-borne disease caused by the bacterium spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, is the most commonly occurring tick-borne illness in the United States with the majority of cases concentrated in the Northeast. In Maine, as well as the rest of North America, LD is transmitted to humans via infected black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis). As the life cycle of the black-legged tick is tightly coupled with forest ecosystems, prevalence of the disease is common in endemic forest landscapes, and individuals spending time in these areas face an increased risk of exposure to LD as well as other tick-borne diseases. While the current literature has documented the knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of general populations in endemic communities, minimal research has been conducted among populations that frequently engage with peridomestic landscapes for recreation or land management purposes. This research aimed to fill that gap, by exploring the perceptions of LD interventions at both the personal preventative behavior and land management level, with an emphasis on characterizing the factors that influence individual behavior. Using an integrative theoretical framework, we examined recreationist performance of three widely promoted LD preventative behaviors: (1) protective clothing behavior, (2) repellent use behavior, and (3) tick check behavior (Chapter 2). Recreationist data was collected using an intercept survey method at Bradbury Mountain State Park, a popular recreation destination for both in-state and out-of-state visitors (n = 401). Results from this study established self-efficacy, method efficacy, risk, and benefits as key determinants in the adoption of LD preventative behavior, supporting the inclusion of these constructs in future health behavior research. In identifying the determinants associated with the LD preventative behaviors of interest – and those that are not – these findings present implications to both theory and practice. In contrast to traditional public health outreach initiatives, tick-related knowledge and experience did not have a strong influence on individual preventative behavior. In identifying the determinants associated with the LD preventative behaviors of interest – and those that are not – these findings present implications to both theory and practice. We also conducted an exploratory inquiry into the factors influencing private woodland owners’ (PWOs) land management decisions, particularly as they relate to LD management (Chapter 3). A quantitative survey instrument designed to assess the factors influencing PWOs’ personal perceptions of ticks and LD and land management decisions was distributed to PWO’s in Cumberland County (n = 355). Results from this research highlighted the internal diversity of PWOs, documenting a wide range of management attitudes and objectives. Findings demonstrated PWOs’ orientations toward LD management to be significantly associated with several socio-demographic and land-ownership characteristics, supporting the inclusion of demographic data in future PWO behavior research. By studying the factors underlying a variety of intended behaviors related to LD prevention this research aimed to provide a human dimensions lens for understanding preventative action in hopes that public health officials and policy makers can employ this information to increase the perceived acceptability and impact of LD management strategies in the future.