Pierre Chuard

Bishop's University
eTick.ca: web platform for image-based tick ID

Pierre JC Chuard, Jade Savage

Recent rapid climatic and habitat changes are likely driving northward expansion and population growth of hard ticks, especially Ixodes scapularis (the vector of Lyme disease), in North America. The eTick.ca citizen-science web platform, created in 2014, is an online monitoring tool currently available in the province of Quebec that provides species-level identification of tick pictures submitted by the public. Following identification by an expert, the data is instantaneously projected onto a public interactive map. The turn-over from submission to identification is generally less than 24 hours. In a context where the distribution of a number of tick species of medical relevance is rapidly changing and numbers of Lyme disease cases keep on increasing year after year in Canada, deploying a monitoring and rapid information dissemination tool such as eTick.ca can increase public access to rapid identification resources, reduce the pressure on existing provincial surveillance programs, and standardize data collection across the country. Several academics, as well as provincial and federal public health officials are collaborating to further develop and roll-out the eTick.ca platform to additional provinces. In addition to the benefits for the health of Canadians, the platform will provide valuable public data on tick populations and distribution range that could be incorporated into models to improve projections in relation to ticks. Finally, eTick.ca could detect the presence of tick species previously absent from certain provinces, and thus adapt public health strategies accordingly.