Newswise — Indiana University biologist Keith Clay is available to comment on recent report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that has found the number of people who get diseases from mosquito, tick and flea bites has more than tripled in the U.S. since 2004.

A leader in a field of biology focused on the symbiotic relationship between organisms and the environment, Clay has spent decades observing the changes in tick populations across Indiana. This includes the recent spread of the Gulf Coast tick and lone star tick into the state, the latter of which is responsible for the spread of an infection that causes a severe allergy to red meat.

Currently, he is a co-leader on an effort to create an early warning system for disease risk from ticks and mosquitoes in Indiana. The project, Vector Shield, will monitor the spread of ticks throughout the region at 20 location across the state, including urban, suburban and exurban areas where the risk of human exposure to ticks is greatest.

Preliminary results from the project has found evidence that the deer tick, which is responsible for the spread of Lyme disease, is widely established in southern Indiana.

"We're seeing things shift considerably," he has said. "Ticks play the same role in temperate climates that mosquitoes play in the tropics."

Clay's expertise on ticks and other insects has been cited in Quartz, Scientific American, the Chicago Tribune, the Northwest News, Mother Earth News and Indiana Public Media.

His work has been jointly supported by National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, among other sources. Project Vector Shield is a part of IU's Environmental Resilience Institute, a part of the university's Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge.