Document Type

Honors Thesis




Allison Gardner

Committee Members

Jessica Leahy, Julia McGuire

Graduation Year

May 2023

Publication Date

Spring 2023


The intertwining effects of biological and social factors recently have led to a dramatic increase in Lyme disease cases in Maine. These factors include environmental exposure to ticks, a lack of knowledge of prevention measures against ticks, and an increasing population of blacklegged ticks throughout the state. High school students have seldom been used as a group of interest involving Lyme disease prevention research, yet they may be exposed to ticks while engaging in extracurricular activities, outdoor recreation, and in-class lessons that occur outdoors. In addition, social and ecological factors contributing to this issue have never been investigated in tandem in the context of a high school population. Using a multidisciplinary approach, this research sought to determine the differing risk factors contributing to Lyme disease exposure between rural and urban high school students. Social risk was examined by administering a Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices Survey involving ticks and tick protection strategies to two high schools in Penobscot County. Ecological risk was examined by collecting blacklegged tick samples from three public forested sites in Bangor, ME and assessing both the abundance and nymphal infection prevalence. I determined that there was a significant difference in both the knowledge level and attitudes of high school students originating from urban and rural communities. Abundance data and pathogen analysis of blacklegged tick nymphs showed that there is a lowered level of ecological risk of exposure to Lyme disease in Penobscot County, but this risk will likely increase in years to come due to various ecological and climate related factors. The results of this research will serve as a springboard for targeted Lyme disease education among high school students.