OK, so a slight update on the tick issue: I have some better pics, and have send some specimens to an Acarologist– he thinks these are ticks of the genus Echinonyssus (family Hirstionyssidae s.s. or Laelapidae s. lat.).
Im set to profile the metegenomic (e.g the bad shit ticks send to your way when they bite you) communities as well as use the host RNA to look at immune response. Super cool!