Flagstaff Festival of Science — Local Science Spotlight: Dr. Joe Busch, Population Geneticist

| February 22, 2022

Local Science Spotlight: Dr. Joe Busch, Population Geneticist

 Local Science Spotlight Articles by Communications Intern, Claire Gibson

Unveiling the secret lives of ticks, Dr. Joe Busch leads us through fascinating research in population genetics. Joe, a Senior Research Scientist at the Pathogen & Microbiome Institute (PMI) at Northern Arizona University, studies Cattle Fever ticks. These ticks pose a major threat to food security in the United States, and Joe uses DNA fingerprinting markers to track tick movements and look for the spread of certain genetic groups.

“I love being the first to look at new data,” Joe tells us about his favorite part of being a researcher.

 “As a scientist, you can sometimes think you know everything about your field, and then suddenly something new comes up, and you have to be willing to go with where the data is taking you.”

Although Cattle Fever ticks are the focus of Joe’s genetic research, he also studies how to avoid the parasite carried by the ticks. This parasite called Babesia bovis, or Texas Cattle Fever, is a highly fatal disease that threatens livestock in the United States. Management of this disease occurs through preventing contact with these ticks. The good news is that the United States is free of the parasite, but neighboring countries are not, therefore it takes a lot of work and collaboration to keep the ticks out of cattle populations. Because this research is so important, Joe and his team have maintained funding from 8 USDA grants over the past 12 years.

Joe shares a fascinating story about the efforts involved in keeping cattle safe from the ticks. To read the full interview, check out our blog!


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