Anna R. Pasternak, Graduate Research Assistant
Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky
SECVBD Partner

Anna Pasternak is a Masters student in the Department of Entomology at the University of Kentucky. Anna earned her Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Biology at the Ohio University where she first discovered medical entomology. Her senior year she took the course Introduction to Entomology and thrived at memorizing and applying all the topics. During one module her class covered medical and veterinary entomology, combining her interests in microbiology and entomology together, and inspiring her to pursue these in the future. Anna completed an internship at the local health department focusing on mosquito surveillance, soon after undergrad that helped cement her passion for medical entomology. She began to explore the idea of graduate school after talking with her mentor Dr. Johnson from Ohio University who suggested the entomology program at University of Kentucky. After an interview Anna began her Masters with Dr. Subba Reddy Palli, the Department Chair of Entomology at University of Kentucky and State Entomologist.

T.I.C.K. Act group at Washington D.C. where Anna met SECVBD

Anna’s research focuses on the surveillance and pathogen testing of ticks in Kentucky. Before her work, there hasn’t been a recent statewide study to understand what tick species are commonly found or what pathogens these ticks are carrying. The Kentucky Department of Health has cases of tick-borne diseases that are commonly reported such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, and Ehrlichiosis, but by addressing what ticks are carrying and where they are found, Anna hopes to better understand the risk of ticks and tick-borne diseases in Kentucky.

Anna during a group drag in Cumberland Gap with others from Tennessee & Virginia

Anna is passionate about outreach and relaying the information she is finding in the field and lab to foster awareness in the community. Anna and her collaborators are working on a series of videos and an education program on biting insects and ticks. Anna is often on the other end of a phone call answering questions from the public about ticks and tick-borne diseases in Kentucky. Having state level resources to educate communities will help with prevention of vector-borne diseases. In August of 2019, Anna participated in the University of Kentucky Department of Entomology Insect Safari to educate the public on a variety of insect-related topics including conservation, pollinators, pest management and vector borne diseases.

Anna talking with public during the 2019 Insect Safari at University of Kentucky

Anna & Dr. Johnathon Larson at University of Kentucky developed these great infographics:

Anna communicates her findings through publications and presentations. Dr. Larson and Anna published on “Blacklegged Ticks Keep on Ticking Regardless of Winter” in Kentucky Pest News. In May of 2020 she joined SECVBD and presented during the Lyme Disease Awareness Month Lunch & Learn Series with the Vector-Borne Disease “Tick Don’t Social Distance” and contributed a short speech about Kentucky’s Tick Surveillance Program. Anna has also presented earlier this year in March at the Kentucky One Health Conference on “2019 Kentucky Tick Surveillance” and last November at the Kentucky Annual Vector Conference on “Kentucky Tick Surveillance Project and Veterinary Submission Program.” 

To view news articles featuring Anna and her research see the links below:

WKYT-TV, May 2020: UK graduate researchers track ticks to learn more about tick-borne illness

Kentucky Afield Television, April 2020: Ticks and Tick Diseases in Kentucky

Arthro-Pod Podcast Show, February 2020 Arthro-Pod EP 69: Talking Ticks with Anna Pasternak