2020 has been one heck of a year, and it's not even over yet. In March, our campus joined the rest of the northeastern US in efforts to "go virtual" to prevent community transmission of the novel COVID-19 virus. As a lab already focused on public health, we were keen to do our part to try to keep our campus and region safe. However, 2020 was also the fourth and final year of our backyard integrated tick management study, taking place in western CT and southern RI. This study was painstakingly designed and so losing a year of study data would have been pretty terrible. After a lot of consideration and discussions with our Provost, we constructed a lengthy safety protocol so we could continue to conduct the outdoor field work aspects of our study, while minimizing risk to our research team members. We were limited in what we could do inside our laboratory but that was OK - it's way better to spend summer days outdoors anyway. Data entry happened via laptop from the field, and actually that turned out to work out fairly well. We are happy to say we completed our final summer of data collection, but it was quite a ride and we learned a lot. Most importantly, we gained some perspective about what's truly important when it comes to balancing work with keeping people safe. And hats off to our summer student "tick crew" who worked long hot days wearing masks, keeping socially distant from others, without complaint. We could not have done it without them!
Classes at WCSU start next week amid a rise in COVID-19 cases in Danbury, so tensions are high as we all try to navigate more remote teaching and learning. Meanwhile, our tick research at the moment is limited to a small pilot field study and lots and lots of data analysis and writing from isolated spaces at home and on campus. Our team members don't get to hang out in person together, but there are always the ticks to keep us company!
Stay safe, everyone, and let's all hope that 2020 has some better days in store for us in the coming months...