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Northern Vermont University is becoming Vermont State University July 1. Learn More.

Northern Vermont University Named a New England Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases by CDC

Grant-funded regional collaboration is designed to reduce diseases spread by ticks and mosquitoes

Johnson, Vermont — Northern Vermont University has received a $228,000, five-year award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to participate in the newly formed New England Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases (NEWVEC).

NEWVEC aims to bring together academic communities, public health practitioners, and residents across New England to leverage and integrate applied research, training, and build a community of practice to prevent and reduce tick- and mosquito-borne diseases – such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus. The center is based at the University of Massachusetts Amherst with co-principal investigators at University of Maine, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of New Hampshire, University of Rhode Island, and Western Connecticut State University, as well as Northern Vermont University.

A major goal of NEWVEC is to reduce bites by the black-legged tick, a consistently problematic tick in Vermont, New England, and the US. William Landesman, PhD and Associate Professor of Biology at NVU-Johnson, will serve as a co-investigator on the project. Dr. Landesman has researched tick- and mosquito-borne diseases since 2004 by using a combination of field- and molecular-based techniques.

“NEWVEC  will provide Vermont and all of New England with needed funding and attention to address Lyme disease, a public health issue that is estimated to affect more than 400,000 people annually in the United States. In Vermont over the past ten years, there have been are more than 500 cases per year. On a per capita basis, this makes the rate of infection in Vermont one of the highest in the country,” Landesman said. “Our research will focus on interventions that we hope will reduce the number of tick bites and, ultimately, the number of Lyme disease cases, in the state. We will use a multi-tiered approach that focuses on the number of ticks biting hosts such as deer, testing new forest management practices to reduce tick populations and examining and different tick control measures at the residential scale.”

A key component of NEWVEC is to use a Community of Practice model to engage stakeholders –health professionals, extension agencies and other organizations – so that the research best reflects the needs at the local scale. I invite Vermonters to reach out to me to let me know what tick control measures they are trying. We can use this information to tailor-design our research to meet their needs at the local scale.”

Another major goal of NEWVEC is to engage students in this applied research. At Northern Vermont University and the new Vermont State University, there will be opportunities for undergraduate participation. Students studying Biology and related disciplines will have the opportunity to go into the field to estimate tick population sizes and study invasive species. Students may also help out with DNA analysis in the laboratory.

The partnerships and collaborations across New England – from the research labs into the communities – will enable NEWVEC to have the greatest impact and best strategies for reducing and preventing vector-borne diseases.

“We’re going to communicate the best research to our stakeholders,” said Stephen Rich, PhD, executive director at NEWVEC, based at University of Massachusetts Amherst. “But the best communication is two-way, so we’ll ensure that the research investigators hear from end users. If something works well in the lab, but cannot be used in the field or in households, then we need to adjust in order to come up with better solutions. This is where we hope NEWVEC can be a game changer.”

Vermonters may learn more and share their experiences with tick control by contacting William Landesman, PhD, at william.landesman@northernvermont.edu.

ABOUT NORTHERN VERMONT UNIVERSITY

Northern Vermont University is a two-campus institution of higher education that combines the best of our campuses’ nationally recognized liberal arts and professional programs. At Northern Vermont University, our goal is to guide curious, motivated, and engaged students on their paths to success and their places in the world. NVU Online offers flexible, affordable, high-quality options for learners pursuing their bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as certificates. NVU offers a full range of associates, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees as well as credit and non-credit certificates and professional development courses. On July 1, 2023, Northern Vermont University will join together with Castleton University and Vermont Technical College to become Vermont State University, a reimagined higher education institution building on the strong legacies of its founding institutions. Learn more at NorthernVermont.edu.

ABOUT VERMONT STATE UNIVERSITY

Combining and building upon the history of Castleton University, Northern Vermont University, and Vermont Technical College, Vermont State University will become a single accredited institution on July 1, 2023. Learn more at VermontState.edu.

Vermont State University provides high quality, flexible, and affordable education over five primary locations and additional learning sites across the State of Vermont and beyond. Students may earn bachelor, graduate, and associate degrees as well as certificates in technological, professional, and liberal arts programs that are offered in-person, hybrid, or online. Through community partnerships, students engage in real-world research, internships, volunteering, and work experiences. We foster a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice and strive to be a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive learning and working environment. Vermont State University becomes a single accredited entity on July 1, 2023, and is a part of the Vermont State Colleges System. The university builds on a history of public higher education in Vermont dating back to 1787. Learn more at VermontState.edu.