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What Makes Viruses Tick? - A Citizen Science Project

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

What Makes Viruses Tick Logo

What makes viruses tick? The Brennan Lab at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research is on a mission to find out.

But the project is not just about scientific inquiry; it's also about engaging the public, raising awareness about tick-borne diseases in Scotland, and forging partnerships to make Scotland's great outdoors safer for all.

While Lyme disease may be the most well-known tick-borne ailment in Scotland, ticks also harbour other diseases, including viruses. In a recent development, the tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) virus has been detected in certain regions of the UK, sounding an alarm about the urgent need to understand the risks of a potential complex ecosystem of diseases waiting to be discovered.

We align our goals with the Lyme Resource Centre (LRC), aiming to encourage the public to embrace the outdoors while remaining vigilant about the potential dangers of tick-borne diseases.

Citizen Science and Public Engagement

One of the most exciting aspects of the What Makes Viruses Tick? (WMVT) project is our emphasis on public engagement and citizen science. We invite people from all walks of life to actively participate by reporting tick sightings, contributing invaluable data to create a comprehensive tick map for Scotland.

This collaborative effort, made possible with our partners at The Conservation Volunteers in Scotland (TCV), empowers the public to play a crucial role in monitoring ticks and their potential risks. We have added to this extensively through social media, direct outreach and through our partnership with the LRC Ticks & Lyme disease Awareness Signage Project with over 500 signs now sited across Scotland).

You can submit your tick sighting here.

What Makes Viruses Tick Sighting Submission Box

The insights derived from this collective effort have been transformative. We’re analysing the data from the tick map to pinpoint areas where ticks are most frequently encountered. Armed with this knowledge, we have informed landowners of where to trim back overgrown vegetation along paths, reducing the risk of tick encounters, and shared information with other academic groups exploring where they see deer in relation to their tick sightings.

What Makes Viruses Tick Poster

Outdoor Enthusiasts and Climate Change

Scotland has witnessed a surge in outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. With more people embracing hill-walking, running, and camping in the breath-taking countryside, reports of tick bites and sightings are on the rise. As outdoor pursuits gain popularity, the WMVT project's mission becomes even more critical – ensuring that the public enjoys the outdoors while staying informed about the risks and how to protect themselves.

Climate change adds a layer of complexity to this ‘ticking clock’. Mild winters in Scotland may have disrupted the natural tick population cycle, preventing their numbers from dwindling during the colder months. This, in turn, leads to an increase in the number of ticks that survive the winter and emerge in spring, ready to feed.

Creating a legacy of knowledge

As part of our public engagement efforts, we are working with others, to create a valuable bank of resources that can be used by people all across Scotland.

As part of our commitment to public engagement, we're not just stopping at data collection. We're building a treasure trove of resources for Scotland. From oral history interviews to lesson plans in partnership with the Lyme Resource Centre, we're creating materials that will benefit communities across the country. Our goal is to leave a lasting legacy when our funding ends in September 2024, with resources available in both English and Scottish Gaelic.

If you would like to be involved in producing any of our resources, please get in touch at

Partnering for a Safer Scotland

The Brennan Lab at CVR is not alone in its tireless pursuit of understanding tick-borne viruses and protecting the Scottish public. We’ve forged powerful partnerships with Lyme Resource Centre and The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) to expand the #TickMap initiative.

We see the partnerships we have forged as being key to success in making enjoyment of Scotland's outdoors safer and reducing tick-borne infections.

Stay in the Loop!

Want to stay updated on tick sightings, tick safety tips, and public events hosted by the WMVT project? Follow us on social media:

Join us in the quest to unravel the mysteries of viruses and ticks, and together, we'll create a safer and more informed Scotland for all outdoor enthusiasts. Discover what makes viruses tick and why it matters more than ever.

Sam Langford

(Project manager)

October 2023

Follow LRC on Twitter and on Facebook

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