Government shutdown slows research at Virginia Tech

By Jessica Jewell - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

BLACKSBURG, Va. - More Americans are starting to feel the impacts of the longest government shutdown in history. That includes researchers at Virginia Tech. 

Virginia Tech is a research-driven university, where half a billion dollars worth of research happens every year. 

Luckily, the shutdown isn't affecting all of that work, but it is certainly making an impact. 

Kevin Lahmers is in the midst of crucial, time-sensitive research about ticks that could be killing cattle across the country, including in southwest Virginia. 

The USDA has played a big part in helping his team assess the threat, but Lahmers says those employees are now furloughed because of the government shutdown. 

"We have to go based on our best guess and make some fairly big decisions based on that," said Lahmers. 

And he's not alone. 

"It is more problematic with every passing day," said Mark Owczarski, a Virginia Tech spokesperson.

Many researchers across the country aren't able to get grant funding or work with federal agencies, as long as the government remains shut down. 

"That payment is what keeps the research going. In the short term, Virginia Tech can help cover those costs and keep researchers doing their work," said Owczarski. 

Cost is just one of Lahmers' concerns. He's more focused on trying to help not just farmers in our area, but also people and pets that may come into contact with this tick.  

"This is slowing us down in something that I feel is important," says Lahmers.

Those concerns are growing with each day the government is shut down. 

"Like exercise, it may not be urgent. You can miss a day or two, but as the days start to pile up, it proves to be important and can have life-altering effects as it drags on. And so we're at that point, we're not urgent, but it's important and it's getting more and more important," said Lahmers. 

Seventy percent of the research happening at Virginia Tech is not affected by this shutdown because those projects are funded by agencies that are up and running right now. 

But the impact is stunting the growth of researchers involved in the other 30 percent, like Lahmers working with the USDA. 

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