Student Research Profile: Charidan Jackson and Zoe Morphis

Zoe and Charidan (pictured) used a piece of flannel to collect ticks from the outdoors to determine their distribution patterns.

Meet Charidan Jackson and Zoe Morphis, who conducted a research project at PUC last year studying ticks in Albion and at the college’s Albion Field Station. Charidan graduated from PUC last year and is now getting her master’s at California State University, Long Beach, while Zoe is studying biology at PUC and intends to go to veterinary school after graduation.

Who are you?
I’m Charidan Jackson, and I’m a first-year master student at California State University, Long Beach. I plan to obtain a degree in biology and work as a forensic scientist.

I’m Zoe Morphis and I’m a biology major. I plan to go to vet school to become a licensed veterinarian.

What did you do?
We worked with Dr. Ness to survey the population density of ticks in Angwin and the Albion Field Station. We were responsible for taking collections, logging GPS locations, and recording other physical and biological information about each site. This was the beginning stages of a research project to study the prevalence of Lyme disease in the local tick populations and involved development of research methods as well as collecting preliminary samples.

When and where did you do this work?
The research was done during spring and fall quarters of 2017. We focused on collecting in areas of Angwin and Albion frequented by humans such as the back 40 and trails with plant growth on either side.

What did you learn?
Charidan: From our data collection, we learned Angwin is prime habitat for ticks. We saw differences in species, developmental stage, and sex. Collecting ticks was not difficult because they come toward humans and other warm-blooded animals. Ticks are especially active in warmer and slightly moist environments. Although we did not initially aim to collect data specifically on the plant matter ticks were found on, we noticed that more ticks were found on invasive species such as French broom and Himalayan blackberry

Zoe: The most valuable thing I learned during this research project was simply the amount of effort that goes into even a simple research project. Even simply getting approval for obtaining the necessary supplies was a challenge, not to mention the hard work of trying to collect ticks. It really helped me to appreciate complicated research studies scientists have done to help us learn about the world.

How did your experience at PUC help prepare you for this experience?
Charidan: Classes such as Conservation Biology and Ecology emphasized the importance of detailed and specific data collection. We applied the quadrat method we learned from those classes to organize data collection before we started. PUC also offered a one-day seminar on Geographic Information Systems. GIS gave us the tools to map Angwin’s trails and plot our points along the trail. Flowering Plants opened my eyes to the different types of plants in on habitat. Without the expertise of that class, I doubt we would have noticed any correlation between invasive species and ticks.

Zoe: PUC prepared me for this experience by providing me with the basic knowledge necessary to understand the research process. Specifically, taking Intro to Research Methods provided me with a solid background to be able to read and comprehend scientific research articles in order to prepare a feasible plan for our study. I also was grateful for the knowledge I had from Genetics, as it allowed me to understand how sequencing the ticks’ DNA to detect Lyme disease would work.

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