IUP student will present research on ticks in Pittsburgh parks
Anna Manges, a junior biology major and geology minor at IUP, will be honored Friday by the Pennsylvania Vector Control Association for her work studying ticks in Pittsburgh’s regional city parks.
Manges, a student in the Cook Honors College, was nominated for the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Research Award by biology faculty member Tom Simmons. Manges has been part of the Simmons’ team of researchers examining blacklegged ticks and Lyme disease risks since her freshman year.
Scientists say that the blacklegged tick is the main transmitter of Lyme disease, an infectious illness that can cause fever, fatigue, headache, joint pain, neck stiffness, loss of ability to move one or both sides of the face, heart palpitations, and other medical complications.
In the United States, Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease, surpassing mosquito-borne West Nile virus and Zika.
“It’s really an honor to receive this award, and an honor to continue the tradition of having recipients from IUP chosen for this recognition,” Manges said.
IUP pre-medicine natural science majors Tashi Bharathan and Shannon Tepe, who also worked with Simmons, won the award in 2017.
As the award recipient, Manges will present her research, “Ticks in the Burgh: Acarological Lyme Disease Risk in the Pittsburgh Regional City Parks” on Friday at the annual conference of the Pennsylvania Vector Control Association in Boalsburg, outside State College in Centre County. Her research included collecting ticks to determine the density and distribution of nymphs as well as the infection prevalence of the Lyme disease spirochete.
“It’s great to be able to show the outstanding work that IUP students are doing in the biology department,” Manges said. “I also want to thank Dr. Simmons. He’s been a great mentor and I’ve really grown as a student and scientist by working with him.”
Simmons said Manges is a tremendous researcher.
“She has a natural aptitude for scientific research: she can troubleshoot, solve problems and is a super quick study, with great attention to detail and great common sense for field and lab work,” Simmons said. “It was a pleasure to nominate her for this award, and it’s a well-deserved honor.”
Manges, a 2016 graduate of Indiana Area High School, has been an active presenter on the team’s blacklegged tick and Lyme disease research, and is the lead author of research papers which discuss water mite parasitism of the Asian tiger mosquito and Asian bush mosquito.
Manges and other students also have presented on Lyme disease risks to local Girl Scouts and to the Friends of the Park organization.
Simmons and Manges are currently working on a manuscript about the research project for a professional journal.