Penn biologists create method to correct publicly collected datasets


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Penn biologists led a research team that found a way to correct a set of data collected by members of the public to create a map of ticks transmitting Lyme disease in the northeast.

Credit: Mélanie Hilman

A research team led by biologists at Penn has found a way to correct a set of data collected by members of the public to create a map of ticks transmitting Lyme disease in the northeast.

Data collected by the public is normally corrected by controlling for factors related to the collector, such as the collector’s experience and education level, Penn Today reported. The research team did not have this information, so they instead used county-level demographics and other factors, including a county’s median household income, population size, and location. racial demographics.

Apps and websites like eBird and iNaturalist allow members of the public to act as “citizen scientists” by documenting their observations on a wide range of natural phenomena, Penn Today reported. This data greatly exceeds the amount of data collected by professional scientists. However, the presence of collector bias decreases the quality of the data and their usefulness in scientific research.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses are on the increase. Over the past 20 years, the range of the blacklegged tick, which is responsible for most cases of Lyme disease, has more than doubled. New species of ticks and the discovery of new germs also contribute to the growing threat. The CDC recommends taking steps to protect against tick bites, such as avoiding areas with tall grass and leaf litter, using insect repellents registered by the Environmental Protection Agency, and treating dogs against it. ticks.

Pennsylvania consistently ranks among the states with the highest number of Lyme disease cases each year. The Daily Local News reported that in the spring of 2021, the Department of Environmental Protection collected twice as many blacklegged ticks compared to last year.


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