A MULtispecies ethnography of human-animal-environment assemblages for TIck-BOrne DIsease prevention in Italy and Slovenia


In the human population, Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis are the two fastest-growing tick-borne diseases, causing mounting concern all over the world, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. Ticks infect wild, domestic and farm animals too, causing a vast range of diseases. So far, the prevention of human tick-borne diseases has mainly focused on individual protective measures – and with limited success. The design of strategies that involve the entire human-animal-environment community, through an integrated One Health approach, has received limited attention with regard to these two zoonoses, while it has already proven effective for many others. 

MULTIBODI aims at building with local communities an interdisciplinary, intersectoral, ethnography-informed conversation on different ways of living alongside ticks through different ways of living with animals, woods, fields and pastures in the mountain environment of today’s Italy and Slovenia. 


Nature of the project


  • Participatory: It engages with multiple perspectives – mushroom collectors from woods, mayors from city halls, sheep from meadows, dogs from veterinary practices, etc. – to put together a picture that shows how the entanglement of multispecies lives results in tick-borne disease infection. 
  • Bottom-up (literally): It explores the world-around-ticks starting from the world-of-ticks – grass blades, leaf carpets, berry bushes, wood piles, etc. – and zooming out to include human behaviours, wildlife movements, animal husbandry, forest use, etc.
  • Bottom-up (figuratively): It is planned to develop according to the inputs of the community, replacing the concept of “social acceptability” with that of “active citizenship”. 
  • Applied: It not only investigates tick-borne disease prevention through the lens of One Health, but also brings together people interested in imagining new ways of securing health and wellbeing for the environment, animals and themselves. 



The specific objectives are: 

  1. To map the stakeholders – across different sections of society, institutions, disciplines and geographical scales (local, national and European) – who are already engaged in, or could be interested in joining, an exchange of views on One Health-inspired tick-borne disease prevention. 

  2. To disentangle the local, context-specific, socio-economic-ecological complexities of disease transmission through the collection of qualitative data on the experience, knowledge and perspectives of local people on how to cope with, and reduce, the risk of tick-borne diseases in humans and animals.

  3. To share and discuss in community juries the knowledge co-produced and the concerns, priorities, and strategies identified in Obj. 1 and 2.

Research materials


  • Paper “Wood ticks or sheep ticks? Hope in diluted landscapes in some Italian mountains, between tick-borne diseases and land management” at the workshop “The many ethnographic faces of the parasite” of the Centre for Research in the Arts and Social Sciences, Cambridge, UK, 15 March 2024
  • Paper “Usare le zecche per difendere le pecore dai lupi. Nuove narrazioni politiche per nuovi equilibri di specie nel bellunese” at the Conference “Ritornare selvatici. Tendenze socio-spaziali nelle aree rurali fragili [ITA]”, Rovigo, Italy, 22-23 March 2024
  • Panel “Multispecies assemblages in times of climate change-induced (eco)systemic transformations. An interdisciplinary discussion on how ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, and other vectors of human and animal diseases restructure the world” at the Conference of the International Society of Ethnobiology, Marrakesh, Morocco, 15-19 May 2024
  • Panel “Multispecies ethnography in the making. Learning and unlearning from a relationship with others” at the conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists, Barcelona, Spain, 23-26 July 2024
  • Paper “A promising future for ticks. One Health challenges to control the global increase of tick-borne diseases in animals (and their humans) in a changing climate” in the panel “Panzootics, beyond pandemics and zoonoses” at the conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists, Barcelona, Spain, 23-26 July 2024
  • Paper “Ticks on the move. Imagining new disease entanglements in a changing climate” at the International Convention of Asia Scholars, Surabaya, Indonesia, 28 July - 1 August 2024
  • Workshop “One Health imaginative workshop for the identification of functional values and drivers for change” at the International Convention of Asia Scholars, Surabaya, Indonesia, 28 July - 1 August 2024


Deborah Nadal

Deborah Nadal, from Italy, is a medical anthropologist specialising in human-animal-environment health (One Health), zoonotic diseases, community-based participatory research and South Asian studies. After her PhD research on dog-cow-macaque-human co-existence in northern India (which resulted in the Wenner Gren-funded book “Rabies in the Streets: Interspecies Camaraderie in Urban India”), she completed a 3-year Marie Skɫodowska Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship, funded by the European Union, at the University of Glasgow (UK) and the University of Washington (USA), where she worked on dog and human rabies in western India. At Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, she is now the principal investigator on this project on ticks and she teaches animal folklore. Since 2021, she also works as a consultant for the Department for the Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases at the World Health Organization (Switzerland).

Kristina Seljak

Kristina Seljak, from Slovenia, is a cultural anthropologist specialising in material and immaterial heritage, museography and community-based participatory research on health-related topics. She has contributed significantly to projects addressing societal challenges, such as her research on inequalities and vulnerabilities in healthcare in Slovenia, which provided insights into everyday life and barriers to accessing healthcare. She also played a crucial role in creating a Multilingual Handbook for Easier Communication in Healthcare, which enables better interaction between migrants and healthcare providers. Kristina's expertise spans interdisciplinary research, qualitative analysis, multilingual communication and project management.