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Teachable Moment

The UMass Amherst Laboratory of Medical Zoology’s tick lab makes outdoor adventuring safer.

Teachable Moment


If you’re a tick, 2017 is your year. If you’re a human, ticks can cramp your summer style. The UMass Amherst Laboratory of Medical Zoology’s tick lab makes outdoor adventuring safer. If you find a suspicious tick, you can send it directly to the LMZ to have it tested for pathogens. 

The lab currently receives 6,000 ticks a year—an intake that upticks in the summer and the fall—mailed from all over the world and even driven in person to Fernald Hall. 

The LMZ is a completely self-funded academic research unit, dedicated to raising awareness of tick-borne diseases. Since its founding in 2006, it has become a one-of-a-kind surveillance database, collected from data submitted by the people who send in ticks. The results are public: just enter your ZIP code to learn which ticks have been found in your vicinity and how they have tested.

“We created a crowdsourced model that addresses an urgent need,” says Stephen Rich, professor of microbiology and lab director.

While it may take a doctor a week to test your blood for antibodies to a pathogen, the tick lab tests for the pathogen itself. You can then take the results to your doctor’s office so they can know to look for a disease that might not be on their radar. 



Ticks detect you by the carbon dioxide you exhale. Try hiking in the woods without doing that, though.

24 hrs.

Remove a tick as soon as possible: it takes 24 hours of attachment for it to transmit the Lyme virus to your blood.

15–20 min.

Throw your outdoor clothes right into the dryer before washing them, since it is desiccation plus heat that kills ticks.


Ready to send in your tick? Go to and the site will walk you through the steps. Make sure to wear tall socks!