Skip to main content

Climate Change Institute

Susan Elias

PhD Candidate, School of Earth and Climate Sciences

Susan Elias

Contact Information

Download CV

Orono, ME  04473


I have a BS ('84) and MS ('94) in Wildlife Science and have been a vector-borne disease ecologist at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute’s Vector-borne Disease Lab since 2000. I am quantifying the relationships between ticks and climate, hosts, habitat, and land use.  From 1998-2007 I worked at the University of Maine's Holt Research Forest. 

I have recently become interested conveying my public health messages about ticks through a One Health standpoint...the One Health concept is that human and veterinary health are tied to health of the environment.  I also have become interested in conveying science through art. “The arts are becoming a favored medium for conveying science to the public” (Lesen et al. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 2016;31). A recent product of my NSF IGERT A2C2 program is Ecology of Lyme, a surreal painting by Olaf Hajek (see below).  

Research interests

Deer ticks in Maine now carry five pathogens which cause human disease.  Tick-borne illness in Maine has risen dramatically over the past 25 years, with record case numbers of Lyme, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis in 2014, and the appearance of replapsing fever caused by Borrelia myamotoi, as well as a 2013 death due to the deer tick virus variant of Powassan encephalitis virus. It is thought that Lyme disease may be under-reported ten-fold, and further, co-infection by two or more of the disease agents from a single tick bite may exacerbate illness.  Mosquito-borne illness, common in Massachusetts, arrived in Maine with the first human case of West Nile virus in 2011 and eastern equine encephalitis virus in 2014.   

•The Vector-borne Disease Lab (VBDL) of the Maine Medical Center Research Institute has shown that
1.Lyme disease and babesiosis cases are correlated with the number of deer ticks over time and in space at municipal and county scales, and
2.Increased deer tick abundance is correlated with warmer temperatures, and, vector mosquito abundance is correlated with warmer temperatures and increased precipitation.

•In collaboration with the UMaine Climate Change Institute, the VBDL has been able to infer that climate change will increase the risk of vector-borne illness to humans in Maine. Tentative conclusions are that milder winters and adequate moisture in summers, and increased degree-day input will allow the deer tick to complete its life cycle statewide; and that earlier spring degree-day accumulation and increased rainfall will allow earlier amplification of mosquito-borne virus.

Better multivariate models are needed.  Modeling approaches will include spatial interpolation techniques, multivariate regression (e.g. a GLMM), and a MaxEnt approach with presence data.  Successful models will inform adaptation strategies. Key inputs will include:

1. the latest PRISM and WRF inputs
2. deer density
3. habitat, e.g. invasive plants, forest cover type
4. land use, e.g. suburbanization

 Below: Ecology of Lyme by Olaf Hajek, 2017

Ecology of Lyme by Olaf Hajek (UMaine poster) 


  • Elias SP, P Keenan, J Kenney, S Morris, K Covino, S Robinson, K Foss, PW Rand, CB Lubelczyk, EH Lacombe, J-P Mutebi, D Evers, RP Smith Jr. 2017. Seasonal Patterns in eastern equine encephalitis virus antibody in songbirds in southern Maine. Vector-borne and Zoonotic Diseases 17:325-330.
  • Saunders M, Elias S, Robinson S and Lubelczyk C. 2017. Update on the distribution of Aedes japonicus in Maine. Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association. 33:136-138.
  • Cavanaugh CE, Muscat PL, Telford SR 3rd, Goethert H, Pendlebury W, Elias SP, Robich R, Welch M, Lubelczyk CB, Smith RP. 2017. Fatal Deer Tick Virus Infection in Maine. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 65:1043-1046.
  • Smith RP, SP Elias, TJ Borelli, B Missaghi, BJ York, RA Kessler, CB Lubelczyk, EH Lacombe, CM Hayes, MS Coulter, PW Rand. Human Babesiosis, 1995-2011, Maine, USA. Emerging Infectious Diseases 2014;20:1727-1730.
  • Elias SP, CB Lubelczyk, PW Rand, JK Staples, TW St. Amand, CS Stubbs, EH Lacombe, LB Smith and RP Smith Jr. Effect of a botanical acaricide on Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae) and non-target arthropods. Journal of Medical Entomology 2013;50:126-136.
  • Angel TE, JM Jacobs, RP Smith, MS Pasternack, S Elias, MA Gritsenko, A Shukla, EC Gilmore, C McCarthy, DG Camp 2nd, RP Smith, Warren HS. Cerebrospinal fluid proteome of patients with acute Lyme disease. Journal of Proteome Research 2012;11:4814-4822.
  • MacQueen DM, C Lubelczyk, S Elias, B Cahill, A Mathers, EH Lacombe, PW Rand, RP Smith Jr. Genotypic diversity of an emergent population of Borrelia burgdorferi at a coastal island recently colonized by Ixodes scapularis. Journal of Vector Borne and Zoonotic Diseases 2012;12:456-461.
  • Elias, SP, RP Smith, Jr, SR Morris, PW Rand, and C Lubelczyk. Density of Ixodes scapularis ticks on Monhegan Island after complete deer removal: A question of avian importation? Journal of Vector Ecology 2011;36:11-23.
  • Mathers A, RP Smith Jr, B Cahill, C Lubelczyk, SP Elias, E Lacombe, SR Morris, CP Vary, CE Parent, and PW Rand. Strain diversity of Borrelia burgdorferi in ticks dispersed in North America by migratory birds. Journal of Vector Ecology 2011;36:24-29.
  • Rand PW, EH Lacombe, SP Elias, BK Cahill, CB Lubelczyk, and RP Smith Jr. 2011. Multitarget test for emerging Lyme disease and anaplasmosis in a survey of dogs, Maine, USA. Emerging Infectious Diseases 2011;17:899-902.
  • Lubelczyk, C, SP Elias, L Kantar, J Albert, S Hansen, K Saxton-Shaw, K MacMillan, LB Smith, R Eisen, B Swope, RP Smith and J-P Mutebi. Detection of Eastern equine encephalitis virus antibodies in moose (Alces americana), Maine, 2010. Vector-borne and Zoonotic Diseases 2014;14:77-81.
  • Rand, P W, E H Lacombe, SP Elias, C B Lubelczyk, T St. Amand, and RP Smith, Jr. Trial of a minimal-risk botanical compound to control the vector tick of Lyme disease. Journal of Medical Entomology 2010;47:695-698.
  • Lubelczyk C, BK Cahill, J Turmel, E Lacombe, PW Rand, SP. Elias, and RP Smith Jr. Tick (Acari:Ixodidae) infestation at two rural, seasonal camps in Maine and Vermont. Journal of Parasitology 2010;96:442-443.
  • Lubelczyk C, J-P Mutebi, S Robinson, SP Elias, LB Smith, S Juris, K Foss, A Lichtenwalner, KJ Shively, DE Hoenig, L Webber, S Sears, and RP Smith Jr. An epizootic of eastern equine encephalitis virus, Maine, U.S.A. in 2009: outbreak description and entomological studies. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 2013;88:95-102.
  • PW Rand, EH Lacombe, R Dearborn, BKCahill, SP Elias, C Lubelczyk, GA Beckett and RP Smith, Jr. Passive surveillance in Maine, an area emergent for tick-borne diseases. Journal of Medical Entomology 2007;44:1118-1129.
  • Elias, SP, CB Lubelczyk, PW Rand; EH Lacombe, MS Holman, and RP Smith, Jr. Deer browse resistant exotic-invasive understory: an indicator of elevated human risk of exposure to Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae) in southern coastal maine woodlands. Journal of Medical Entomology 2006;43:1142-1152.
  • Elias, SP, JW Witham, and ML Hunter, Jr. A cyclic red-backed vole (Clethrionomys gapperi) and seedfall over 22 years in Maine. Journal of Mammalogy 2006;87:440-445.
  • Lubelczyk C, SP Elias, PW Rand, MS Holman, EH Lacombe, and RP Smith, Jr. 2004. Habitat associations of Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae) in Maine. Environmental Entomology 2004;33:900-906.
  • Elias, SP, JW Witham, and ML Hunter, Jr. 2004. Peromyscus leucopus abundance and acorn mast: population fluctuations over 20 years. Journal of Mammalogy 2004;85:743-747.
  • Rand, PW, C Lubelczyk, GR Lavigne, S Elias, MS Holman, EH Lacombe, and RP Smith, Jr. Deer density and the abundance of Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae). Journal of Medical Entomology 2003;40:179-184.
  • Elias, SP, JD Fraser, and PA Buckley. Piping plover brood foraging ecology on New York barrier islands. Journal of Wildlife Management 2000;64:346-354.


  • 2000 to 2016 — Grant support, ~3 dozen grants; from [please see CV]
  • 2013 to 2014 — $12,600.00 — Serosurvey for eastern equine encephalitis virus antibody in passerine birds in Maine from Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund


MS Wildlife Science, Virginia Tech, 1994; BS Wildlife Management, UMaine, 1984

Are you Susan Elias? If so, log in to edit your profile.


© 2018 Climate Change Institute • University of Maine
Orono, ME 04469-5790 • Tel: 207-581-2190 • Fax: 207-581-1203
The University of Maine
Climate Change Institute UMaine