As of October 1st, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Uvalde welcomed Dr. Tammi Johnson as the new assistant professor of wildlife disease ecology. Dr. Johnson was born and raised on a cattle ranch in Thermopolis, Wyoming, which is located east of Grand Teton National Park. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in biology and minor in chemistry from University of Mary, Dr. Johnson acquired a technician job with Kansas State. The position was to help a master’s student map prairie dog colonies and mark individual prairie dogs within the colonies. While working with prairie dogs there was an outbreak of bubonic plague among the colonies. Dr. Johnson originally went to college to become a physical therapist; however, seeing effects of the plague changed Dr. Johnson’s career path. Dr. Johnson said, “a disease that can come in and wipe out a 4,000-hectare colony in a matter of weeks, that is impressive.” Upon finishing her master’s degree from Kansas State, Dr. Johnson began her Ph.D. in disease ecology at the University of Montana.
While Dr. Johnson will be working on a variety of different research projects, her main research focus will be on fever ticks. One of her goals is to create a database of information on ticks in south Texas. The database will help determine what ticks are present within the area as well as the potential presences of fever ticks in new areas. The potential spread of fever ticks into new areas could be aided by exotics. Another goal of Dr. Johnson’s is to complete research on exotics’ (such as nilgai, axis deer, and feral hogs) susceptibility to fever ticks.
In order to make this research successful, Dr. Johnson requires the public’s help – collecting ticks! If you would like to help with research and bring ticks to Dr. Johnson there are only a few simple steps:
1. Ticks can come from anywhere or any animal, including people and harvested animals such as deer or feral hogs.
2. Once ticks are collected, they need to be preserved until examination. You can place the tick in rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, or between 2 pieces of Scotch tape.
3. Getting the ticks to Dr. Johnson is very simple. During AgriLife Center hours, ticks can be dropped off directly to Dr. Johnson, or if she is not in the office the ticks can be dropped off with Christine Thompson. After Center hours, ticks can be left in a box located to the right-hand side of the front doors. Dr. Johnson regularly checks the box for tick samples.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact Dr. Johnson by either phone, (830)278-9151 ext. 242, or email, Tammi.Johnson@ag.tamu.edu.
Edited by Dr. Maureen Frank