Left to Right: Tabby Cavendish (Great Smoky Mountains NP), Brian Gregory (USGS), and Jamie Barichivich (ARMI) swabbing salamanders for Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) in Rockhouse Cave, Wheeler NWR, Alabama. Photo by: Alan Cressler.
ARMI conducts original research on various amphibian diseases in the lab and field. Our research has included estimating the impacts of diseases on the growth of populations, developing and testing potential treatments, affects of stressors on susceptibility to disease, how diseases are transmitted in the wild, and how to model disease distributions and spread.
ARMI disease research is conducted throughout the country, but ARMI pathologist Dr. David Green is based at the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, and coordinates the health screenings and investigations of amphibian mortalities (e.g., identification, pathology) in addition to collaborating on many disease research projects.
Amphibians at our long-term monitoring sites are periodically screened for diseases and we investigate mass mortality events.
National Wildlife Health Center - ARMI
ARMI Products on Disease
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Potential Interactions Among Disease, Pesticides, Water Quality and Adjacent Land Cover in Amphibian Habitats in the United States
Authors: Battaglin W, Smalling K, Anderson C, Calhoun D, Chestnut T, Muths E | Date: 2016-05-24 | Outlet: Science of the Total Environment 320-332
To investigate interactions among disease, pesticides, water quality and adjacent land cover we collected samples of water, sediment, and frog tissue from 21 sites in 7 States in the United States (US) representing a variety of amphibian habitats. All samples were analyzed for > 90 pesticides and pesticide degradates, and water and frogs were screened for the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) using molecular methods. Pesticides and pesticide degradates were detected frequently in frog breeding habitats (water and sediment) as well as in frog tissue. Fungicides occurred more frequently in water, sediment, and tissue than was expected based upon their limited use relative to herbicides or insecticides. Pesticide occurrence in water or sediment was not a strong predictor of occurrence in tissue, but pesticide concentrations in tissue were correlated positively to agricultural and urban land, and negatively to forested land in 2-kilometer buffers around the sites. Bd was detected in water at 45% of sites, and on 34% of swabbed frogs. Bd detections in water were not associated with differences in land use around sites, but sites with detections had colder water. Frogs that tested positive for Bd were associated with sites that had higher total fungicide concentrations in water and sediment, but lower insecticide concentrations in sediments relative to frogs that were Bd negative. Bd concentrations on frog swabs were positively correlated to dissolved organic carbon, and total nitrogen and phosphorus, and negatively correlated to pH and water temperature.
Data were collected from a range of locations and amphibian habitats and represent some of the first field-collected information aimed at understanding the interactions between pesticides, land use, and amphibian disease. These interactions are of particular interest to conservation efforts as many amphibians live in altered habitats and may depend on wetlands embedded in these landscapes to survive.
Spatial variation in risk and consequence of Batrachochytrium salamanderivorans introduction in the United States
Authors: Richgels K, Russell R, Adams M, Grant E | Date: 2016-02-17 | Outlet: Royal Society Open Science 3:150616 | Format: .PDF
A newly identified fungal pathogen, <i>Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans</i> (<i>Bsal</i>), is responsible for mass mortality events and severe population declines in European salamanders. The eastern USA has the highest diversity of salamanders in the world and the introduction of this pathogen is likely to be devastating. Although data is inevitably limited for new pathogens, disease risk assessments utilize best available data to inform management decisions. Using characteristics of <i>Bsal</i> ecology, spatial data on imports and pet trade establishments, and salamander species diversity, we identify high risk areas with both a high likelihood of introduction and severe consequences for local salamanders. We predict that the Pacific coast, southern Appalachian Mountains, and mid-Atlantic regions will have the highest relative risk from <i>Bsal</i>. Management of invasive pathogens becomes difficult once they are established in wildlife populations; therefore, import restrictions to limit pathogen introduction and early detection through surveillance of high risk areas are priorities for preventing the next crisis for North American salamanders
A Model to Inform Management Actions as a Response to Chytridiomycosis-Associated Decline
Authors: Converse SJ, Bailey LL, Mosher BA, Funk WC, Gerber BD, Muths E | Date: 2016-02-15 | Outlet: Ecohealth | Format: .PDF
Decision-analytic models provide forecasts of how systems of interest will respond to management. These models can be parameterized using empirical data, but sometimes require information elicited from experts. When evaluating the effects of disease in species translocation programs, expert judgment is likely to play a role because complete empirical information will rarely be available. We illustrate development of a decision-analytic model built to inform decision-making regarding translocations and other management actions for the boreal toad (Anaxyrus boreas boreas), a species with declines linked to chytridiomycosis caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd).