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News & Stories New graduate student starts at Colorado State University, funded jointly by ARMI, Colorado State University, and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Authors: Erin Muths
June 20, 2017
A new graduate student has started work on boreal toads this summer in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). John Crockett completed his undergraduate degree at Colby College and successfully garnered a funded graduate position in Larissa Bailey's lab at Colorado State University (CSU). He will be working with ARMI scientist Erin Muths and Larissa Bailey to examine factors that influence boreal toad survival from egg to one year old toads. During the past 15 years, breeding by boreal toads has been documented at only six sites within RMNP and in 2016 breeding occurred in only four of these remaining sites. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a fungal pathogen which causes a fatal skin disease in amphibians, has been credited as the cause of the recent and rapid declines of boreal toads in RMNP and has been identified at three of these sites. Quantifying breeding success and understanding factors that impact survival in early life stages of toads are poorly known aspects of their ecology. One of these factors is the potential negative interaction between trout and aquatic stages of toads (egg and tadpoles). Laboratory evidence suggests that trout will "taste" tadpoles, while not lethal, it does effect survival. A behavioral component to this project will examine interactions between trout and aquatic stages in the field. In addition to newly collected data on behavior, egg deposition, hatching success, and metamorph survival, this jointly-funded project will capitalize on long-term existing data from Muths' lab and RMNP. We anticipate that this information will help us understand factors that impact early life stages of toads and identify situations where we may be able to intervene and improve survival rates, thus informing management strategies and contributing to conservation of the toad.
News & Stories The 2016 ARMI meeting was held at the National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) in Madison, Wisconsin
Authors: Erin Muths
December 01, 2016
The 2016 ARMI meeting was held at the National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) in Madison, Wisconsin. ARMI scientists met with disease researchers from NWHC to develop a new disease strategy designed to meet the need for increased information on how aspects of the environment can be managed to understand and reduce the effect of disease on amphibian populations. Disease has been an integral part of ARMI efforts since the inception of this program when the amphibian chytrid fungus and its devastating effects on amphibians was first identified. Now, the complex topic of disease has again come to the forefront of public and scientific consciousness with the recent emergence of a number of infectious diseases such as white-nosed syndrome in bats and the salamander chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans) in amphibians. Additional topics at the meeting focused on research results, including projects as diverse as decision science, amphibian presence relative to gas and oil development, demographic estimates for a number of focal populations, international collaborations, and modelling and methods development. Synergies resulting from this cross discipline (e.g., biology, contaminants, water, disease) effort are critical to develop the knowledge base, direction and tools to effectively combat the global issue of amphibian decline.
News & Stories ARMI conducts national survey for salamander chytrid fungus
Authors: J Hardin Waddle
October 12, 2016
In 2016 ARMI and National Wildlife Health Center scientists conducted a nationwide sampling effort to detect the salamander chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal). Bsal is native to Asia where indigenous salamanders carry the fungus without disease symptoms. However, Bsal has been spread through human facilitation to Europe where it has been implicated in major population die-offs of wild salamanders. To date, no occurrence of Bsal has been documented in wild salamander populations in North America, but there is reason to think that it could arrive or already be here.

Between 2010 and 2014, 99% of the 750,000 salamanders imported into the U.S. were of Asian origin. Due to these obvious threats the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has halted importation of many salamanders, including the Asian species popular in the pet trade. However, we need to know if Bsal is already present. The introduction of Bsal into North American wild salamander populations could be particularly problematic given that North America is a global hotspot of salamander diversity being home to nearly half of all salamander species worldwide.

A current map of U.S. sites that have been surveyed to detect Bsal by the ARMI program is available on the ARMI website ( armi.usgs.gov/Bsal-studies/ ).
News & Stories Hopeful findings for an endangered frog in California’s Sierra Nevada
Authors: Patrick M Kleeman
October 05, 2016
New research combining long-term data sets from UC Santa Barbara biologist Roland Knapp and Emeritus ARMI biologist Gary Fellers shows that after decades of decline — and despite continued exposure to stressors including non-native fish, disease and pesticides — the abundance of endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs (Rana sierrae) has increased seven-fold throughout Yosemite, and at an annual rate of 11 percent, over the 20-year study period.

Those increases, occurring over a large landscape and across hundreds of populations, Knapp said, provide a rare example of amphibian recovery at an ecologically relevant scale. The findings appear in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We now have a parkwide picture of what’s happening in Yosemite, and it shows convincingly that these frog populations are increasing dramatically, ” said Knapp. “These new results show that, given sufficient time and the availability of intact habitat, the frogs can recover despite the human-caused challenges they face.”

In this comprehensive new study, Knapp teamed with researchers Gary Fellers and Patrick Kleeman (U.S. Geological Survey), David Miller (Penn State University), Vance Vredenburg (San Francisco State University), Erica Rosenblum (UC Berkeley) and Cheryl Briggs (UCSB). Their study analyzed more than 7,000 frog surveys conducted by the USGS and UCSB researchers at hundreds of sites over more than 20 years.

“With this unprecedented, robust data set, we could look for patterns in frog population trends, and potential factors that might be influencing frogs in Yosemite,” Fellers said. “Fortunately, and unexpectedly, we found that in spite of a host of potential factors that could be working to depress or eliminate frog populations, the overall pattern has been for a slow, but widespread recovery of Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs.”

Chief among the culprits in Rana sierrae’s once-stark decline is deadly fungal disease called chytridiomycosis, which affects amphibians worldwide and has caused at least 200 species of frogs and salamanders to become extinct within the last 30 years.

To understand how frogs could have recovered in Yosemite despite ongoing chytridiomycosis, in addition to the extensive field surveys, the study also included a laboratory experiment that demonstrated that frogs in Yosemite that have been exposed to the disease for decades are less susceptible than are frogs from populations that are naïve to the disease.

Also a big factor in the original decline: fish introduced years ago into Yosemite waters in the name of recreational angling. According to Knapp, the new research provides clear evidence that efforts in Yosemite to reduce impacts caused by nonnative fish, such as the cessation of fish stocking 25 years ago to restore some lakes to their natural fishless condition, are succeeding.

Describing the group’s findings as “profoundly encouraging,” Kleeman said, “The fact that this is occurring at a landscape scale in the face of multiple stressors lends hope that recovery of the species may indeed be possible.” Still, he cautioned, “Significant population declines are still occurring in other parts of this species’ range, and more work remains to be done to ensure the survival of this emblematic frog of the Sierra Nevada.”

Added Knapp: “The observed recovery of frogs is particularly important because it is based on all of the yellow-legged frog populations in Yosemite. That provides a really strong foundation for the implementation of effective recovery measures.”
News & Stories ARMI scientists Blake Hossack (NOROCK), Brent Sigafus (SBSC) and Erin Muths (FORT), and ARMI post doc Thierry Chambert traveled to Sonora, Mexico, to survey for Sonoran Tiger Salamanders in May 2016
Authors: Erin Muths; Blake R Hossack; Brent H Sigafus
June 23, 2016
ARMI scientists Blake Hossack (NOROCK), Brent Sigafus (SBSC) and Erin Muths (FORT), and ARMI post doc Thierry Chambert traveled to Sonora, Mexico, to survey for Sonoran Tiger Salamanders in May. Reports existed of the presence of this salamander in Sonora, but the spatial extent of its range is unknown. The Sonoran Tiger Salamander is federally endangered in the US and is found only in the San Rafael Valley in southern Arizona. The identification of additional populations in nearby Sonora has implications for multiple conservation concerns including population biology, genetics, and disease. Data collected about its presence and abundance across the border will contribute to the identification of management objectives and subsequent implementation of conservation actions. The surveys were a collaborative effort with logistical support from Naturalia (www.naturalia.org.mx/) that included the expertise of Naturalia employees Daniel Toyos and Ramon Babuca. The trip also benefitted from assistance from Guillermo Molina (Instituto Tecnológico Superior De Cananea), Julio Lemos Espinal (UNAM), and students David Hurtado and Aline Estrella. Jim Rorabaugh contributed much to the trip by sharing knowledge of the Sonoran system gained from his previous expeditions focused on salamanders in Mexico. The effort was based at Rancho Los Fresnos, a Naturalia property located north of the town of Cananea and adjacent to the US–Mexico border. The group sampled a variety of sites on Rancho Los Fresnos, as well as surrounding ranches and locations to the south of Cananea. Tiger salamanders reside primarily in man-made or modified earthen stock tanks. These habitats were seined for salamanders and water samples were collected to test for environmental DNA (eDNA) from salamanders, invasive American bullfrogs, federally-threatened (USA) Chiricahua leopard frogs, and pathogens that cause amphibian diseases. Buccal swabs were collected from captured salamanders for genetic analyses (there is uncertainty in determining the difference among closely related salamanders in the field); and skin swabs were collected to test for disease (both Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans and B. dendrobatidis). This ongoing project has already produced one publication (Hossack et al. 2016. Notes on the Distribution of Tiger Salamanders (Presumed Ambystoma mavortium stebbinsi) in Sonora, Mexico. Herpetological Review 47(2): 177-180), and another is in preparation (Hossack et al. Informing recovery of an imperiled, endemic salamander: coupled dynamics and test of drought-mediated coexistence with invasive predators).
News & Stories New Research Confirms Continued, Unabated and Large-Scale Amphibian Declines: Local Action Key to Reversing Losses
Authors: Evan HC Grant
May 24, 2016
LAUREL, Md. -- New U.S. Geological Survey-led research suggests that even though amphibians are severely declining worldwide, there is no smoking gun – and thus no simple solution – to halting or reversing these declines.

“Implementing conservation plans at a local level will be key in stopping amphibian population losses, since global efforts to reduce or lessen threats have been elusive,” said Evan Grant, a USGS research wildlife biologist who led the study published in Scientific Reports today. “This research changes the way we need to think about amphibian conservation by showing that local action needs to be part of the global response to amphibian declines, despite remaining questions in what is causing local extinctions.”

Amphibian declines are a global phenomenon that this new research demonstrates has continued unabated in the United States since at least the 1960's, and which are occurring even in protected national parks and refuges. Scientists have broadly linked declines to environmental factors like climate, human influence such as land-use change, and contaminants and disease, but have not been able to use actual scientific data on a large scale to discern causes of the ongoing disappearance of amphibian populations.

The new study is the first to test this linkage at a continental scale, and finds that the presence and intensity of the four main threats – human influence, disease, pesticide application, and climate change varies substantially across the US. The causes of the declines are more variable – and more locally driven – across the United States than had been assumed.

For example, the research provides evidence that the average decline in overall amphibian populations is 3.79 percent per year, which supports previous USGS-led research findings from 2013 that showed a similar rate of loss, though the new research finds that the decline rate is more severe in some regions, such as the West Coast and the Rocky Mountains. If this rate remains unchanged, these species would disappear from half of the habitats they occupy in about 20 years.

"Losing 3 or 4 percent of amphibian populations might not sound like a big deal but small losses year in and year out quickly lead to dramatic and consequential declines,” said USGS ecologist Michael Adams, a study coauthor and the lead for the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, which studies amphibian trends and causes of declines.

David Miller, a professor at Penn State University and the lead biometrician in the study, summarized the extent of the effort.

"This study involved a truly comprehensive and collaborative effort to bring together data from researchers across the United States,” Miller said. “We combined nearly half a million actual observations of 84 species across 61 study areas to answer questions about the causes of wide-scale amphibian declines.”

The research, “Quantitative evidence for the effects of multiple drivers on continental-scale amphibian declines,” was led by Evan Grant, USGS; David Miller, Penn State University; Erin Muths, USGS; and 22 others. The study was published in the open-access journal Scientific Reports. Read the full text version here: www.nature.com/articles/srep25625
News & Stories Amphibians in the news
Authors: R N Fisher
May 24, 2016
This week, our very own eccentric biologist, Robert Fisher, gave an interview on KPCC about amphibian declines in Southern California.

The follow up article was posted online. You can view it here: www.scpr.org/news/2016/05/23/60926/california-s-amphibians-threatened-by-climate-chan/

Elsewhere, Evan Grant communicated with VOA News, Field and Stream magazine, and UPI.com in hope of reaching out to the public on the current state of Amphibians.

Their stories can be viewed here: www.voanews.com/content/mht-unabated-amphibian-decline-found-to-have-myriad-causes/3342617.html

Here: www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/field-notes/new-research-confirms-large-scale-amphibian-die-off

And here: www.upi.com/Science_News/2016/05/23/Amphibians-in-continued-global-decline/8341464025350/

Update: One more article to add to the flurry of recent amphibian updates: www.natureworldnews.com/articles/22906/20160525/are-amphibians-about-to-go-extinct-the-amphibian-crisis-is-worse-than-you-think.htm

News & Stories ARMI scientists assess the impacts of global change on U.S. wetlands
Authors: W J Sadinski
March 01, 2016
Wetlands and interconnected uplands are vitally important for human well-being and sustaining biodiversity (1-3). For example, they limit flooding, recharge ground water, filter contaminants, help regulate climate, and provide food and recreation, all of which are invaluable ecosystem services (2, 3). In addition, although wetlands per se cover only a small proportion of the earth’s surface, they support a substantially larger proportion of the world’s biodiversity by providing habitats many species require to persist across landscapes over time, including amphibians (4-7). Yet, human activities related to various land uses, the burning of fossil fuels, and the release of contaminants into the environment have reduced the quantity and quality of wetlands across the world’s ecoregions, disproportionately so relative to other land-cover types, and pose ongoing threats to remaining wetlands, the ecosystem services they provide, and the populations of amphibians and other organisms they sustain (2, 4, 5, 8, 9).

At a minimum, most U.S. amphibian species require wetlands to reproduce (6). However, as has happened in other countries, agricultural production, urban expansion, and other land uses have caused the loss or degradation of many U.S. wetlands (5, 10). Furthermore, persistent droughts in western states have caused extensive wetland desiccation recently (11) and increasingly non-stationary climate dynamics threaten to alter past patterns of wetland surface-water availability at even broader spatiotemporal scales, as well as to exacerbate effects from other global change factors (2, 12). More insidiously perhaps, the presence of pathogens that induce lethal amphibian diseases (13), or invasive species that harm native amphibians (14), essentially have caused the loss or degradation of some U.S. wetlands as viable amphibian habitat and could become more pervasive due to climate-induced changes in environmental conditions (12). Thus, assorted drivers of global change have impacted many U.S. wetlands deleteriously, with potentially widespread past, current, and future repercussions for the long-term persistence and conservation of amphibian populations (8, 9).

For these reasons, ARMI scientists and their collaborators have been assessing relations between factors associated with global change, wetland conditions, and the statuses of amphibian populations in each ARMI region across the United States. This research has been conducted most often, but not exclusively, on public lands managed by the Department of Interior and addressed questions regarding the impacts of agricultural land use, contamination due to non-agricultural chemical compounds, oil and gas production, emergent diseases, invasive species, fire, ultraviolet-B radiation (UV-B), and climate ( armi.usgs.gov/table1.php ). Results from these studies have shown the large extent to which the conversion of native land cover to agricultural crops resulted in wetland losses in Iowa, that wetlands in various regions often contain agricultural and non-agricultural contaminants and amphibian pathogens at levels sufficient to be injurious to amphibians or cause population declines, and that historically non-native species have invaded wetlands in some regions and effectively reduced habitat quality for populations of native amphibian species. ARMI researchers also described how effects of western wildfires on wetlands were highly variable and dependent upon wetland characteristics and burn severity whereas levels of dissolved organic carbon in most study wetlands were sufficient to attenuate UV-B rapidly and reduce threats to amphibians in the water. In addition, ARMI scientists studying the impacts of variable climate dynamics on wetland surface-water availability have characterized key relations that underlay the vulnerability of many wetlands and, in turn, amphibian populations to climate change.

Wetlands are fundamentally important natural resources that are vulnerable to the forces of global change (4, 5). As part of assessing the statuses of U.S. amphibian populations and causes of declines (15), ARMI scientists have measured how various drivers of global change have altered the quantity and quality of wetlands in different parts of the country. Results from such research provide resource managers and other stakeholders a unique set of information relevant for conserving wetlands and amphibians both regionally and nationally. They also help to address a larger national need for scientific information on the availability of surface waters for sustaining key ecological processes and providing vital ecosystem services in the face of global change. For more information on ARMI wetlands research in specific areas of the country, please contact the individuals listed in Table 1 ( armi.usgs.gov/table1.php ) or peruse relevant ARMI publications ( armi.usgs.gov/search/index.php ).

Literature cited
1. Gibbons JW. 2003. Terrestrial habitat: a vital component for herpetofauna of isolated wetlands. Wetlands 23(3):630-635.
2. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Wetlands and Water Synthesis. World Resources Institute. Washington, D.C. 68 pages.
3. Zedler JB. 2003. Wetlands at your service: reducing impacts of agriculture at the watershed scale. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 1(2):65-72.
4. Dudgeon D, Arthington AH, Gessner MO, Kawabata ZI, Knowler DJ, et al. 2006. Freshwater biodiversity: importance, threats, status and conservation challenges. Biological Review 81:163-182.
5. Zedler JB, Kercher S. 2005. Wetland resources: status, trends, ecosystem services, and restorability. Annual Review of Environmental Resources 30:39-74.
6. Lannoo ML, Gallant AL, Nanjappa P, Blackburn L, Hendricks R. 2005. Introduction. In: Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species. ML Lannoo (ed). University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California. 1094 pages.
7. Gibbons JW, Winne CT, Scott DE, Willson JD, Glaudas X, et al. 2006. Remarkable amphibian biomass and abundance in an isolated wetland: implications for wetland conservation. Conservation Biology 20(5):1457-1465.
8. Hof C, Araujo, MB, Jetz W, Rahbek C. 2011. Additive threats from pathogens, climate, and land-use change for global amphibian diversity. Nature 480:515-519.
9. Wake DB. 2012. Facing extinction in real time. Science 335:1052-1053.
10. Gallant AL, Sadinski W, Roth MF, Rewa CA. 2011. Changes in historical Iowa land cover as context for assessing the environmental benefits of current and future conservation efforts on agricultural lands. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 66(3):67A-77A.
11. McMenamin SK, Hadly EA, Wright CK. 2008. Climatic change and wetland desiccation cause amphibian decline in Yellowstone National Park. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105(44):16988-16993.
12. Rahel FJ, Olden JD. 2008. Assessing the effects of climate change on aquatic invasive species. Conservation Biology 22(3):521-533.
13. Muths E, Corn PS, Pessier AP, Green DE. 2003. Evidence for disease-related amphibian decline in Colorado. Biological Conservation 110:357-365.
14. D’Amore A, Kirby E, McNicholas M. 2009. Invasive species shifts ontogenetic resource partitioning and microhabitat use of a threatened native amphibian. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 19(5):534-541.
15. Adams MJ, Miller DAW, Muths E, Corn PS, Grant EHC, et al. 2013. Trends in amphibian occupancy in the United States. PLoS ONE 8(5): e64347.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064347.
News & Stories Invasive Amphibian Fungus Could Threaten US Salamander Populations
Authors: A B Brand
February 26, 2016
A deadly fungus causing population crashes in wild European salamanders could emerge in the United States and threaten already declining amphibians here, according to a recent USGS report.

The Department of the Interior is working proactively to protect the nation’s amphibians. The USGS report highlights cooperative research and management efforts needed to develop and implement effective pre-invasion and post-invasion disease-management strategies if Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) enters and affects salamanders within the United States. In January, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service published a rule listing 201 salamander species as injurious under the Lacey Act, which will reduce the likelihood of introduction of Bsal into the country.

Although Bsal has not yet been found in wild U.S. salamander populations, scientists caution it is likely to emerge here because of the popularity of captive salamanders as household pets, in classrooms and in zoos; the captive amphibian trade is a known source of salamanders afflicted with the fungus.

Amphibians are the most endangered groups of vertebrates worldwide, with another fungus closely related to Bsal(Bd) contributing to amphibian die-offs and extinctions globally over the last two decades.

“Based on the kinds of species affected and the fact that the United States has the highest salamander diversity in the world, this new pathogen is a major threat with the potential to exacerbate already severe amphibian declines,” said Evan Grant, ARMI biologist and lead author of the USGS report. “We have the unusual opportunity to develop and apply preventative management actions in advance.”

Bsal was first identified in 2013 as the cause of mass wild salamander die-offs in the Netherlands and Belgium. Captive salamander die-offs due to Bsal have occurred in the United Kingdom and Germany. Scientists believe Bsal originated in Asia and spread to wild European populations through the import and export of salamanders.

The USGS brought together scientists and managers from federal and state agencies that oversee resource conservation and management to identify research needs and management responses before Bsal arrives and becomes entrenched in the country. USGS, the USFWS, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Defense, National Park Service, zoos, and U.S. and international universities participated in the Bsal workshop.

Key findings in the report include:

1) Bsal is highly likely to emerge in U.S. populations of wild salamanders through imports of potentially infected salamanders.

2) Management actions targeted at Bsal containment after arrival in the United States may be relatively ineffective in reducing its spread.

3) A coordinated response, including rapid information sharing, is necessary to plan and respond to this potential crisis.

4) Early detection of Bsal at key amphibian import locations, in high-risk wild populations, and in field-collected samples is necessary to quickly and effectively implement management responses.

The workshop and Open-File Report were supported by USGS ARMI and the USGS Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis.

To read the report, go to: dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20151233
News & Stories ARMI gave IGNITE talks in Washington D.C.
Authors: Erin Muths
February 26, 2016
The scientists of The Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative traded their field clothes for suits in December. Seven ARMI scientists gave presentations to partners and amphibian enthusiasts from the Department of Interior and other Federal Agencies at the Main Interior Building just off the Washington D.C. Mall on December 4th2015. The five-minute presentations were made in an “Ignite” style which means that each speaker has only 20 slides that advance automatically every 15 seconds. These talks were entertaining and dynamic, and packed with information about topics as diverse as the salamander chytrid fungus, contaminants, oil and gas, synthetic approaches to catalyze understanding of amphibian declines, reintroduction successes, and innovative ways to move conservation decision-making forward. Following the Ignite session, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Amphibian Survival Alliance, and Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy sponsored a short reception. The reception was designed to encourage follow-up conversation among ARMI scientists and partners with the aim of developing relationships and talking about goals and needs that might be addressed by ARMI. A number of new collaborations are now in development. This event at Main Interior was in conjunction with the annual ARMI meeting that was held at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, hosted by Dr. Roy McDiarmid, a 2015 “Friend of ARMI”.
News & Stories Salamander chytrid fungus working group; June 2015
Authors: Erin Muths; Evan HC Grant
May 14, 2015
The salamander chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans; Bsal) was described in 2014, when die-offs in fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) populations were reported in Europe. Susceptibility to this pathogen varies, but lethality is indicated in the families Salamandridae and Plethodontidae and members of both families occur in the US. Based on this endemicity, the discontinuity of the global incidence of Bsal, and the popularity of salamanders as pets, the emergence of this pathogen in Europe is presumed to have originated via the pet trade.

Over 28 million amphibians were imported in the US over a 6 year period during the last decade and that importation rate has not declined. Thus, there is serious concern that the disease may be introduced into the US in the near future, if it is not already present. This is particularly alarming because the eastern US is home to the highest diversity of salamanders in the world, including 141 species in the known susceptible family, Plethodontidae. Bsal is also known to be lethal to other US genera in the family Salamandridae (the rough skinned newt, Taricha granulosa, in the Pacific Northwest, and the Eastern newt Notophthalmus viridescens). This pathogen has the potential to have devastating consequences for native US salamanders, similar to extirpations observed in frog species in South America and Australia.

Therefore, a primary objective is to design a sampling strategy to detect the occurrence of the disease in the US (i.e., surveillance). Regardless of whether the disease already occurs in the US, a monitoring design must be developed to identify, with sufficient power, the probability the disease occurs in amphibian populations throughout the US, which must be assessed annually along with population estimates to understand the spread of Bsal and the fate of infected populations. A monitoring program in absence of a management plan is of limited use, and the design of a surveillance and monitoring program must consider possible management responses to monitoring results.

The threat of Bsal to US species provides a unique opportunity to address the introduction, spread, population effects, and control strategies for a novel infectious disease before we are dealing with widespread declines in native populations. By framing this crisis as an opportunity for learning and approaching the problem in a formal decision making context, we will increase the probabilities of early detection, containment, and successful mitigation of the Bsal pathogen. This working group will also provide a template for planning actions for future novel infectious diseases.

There is no coordinated effort to bring together scientists, managers, and policy makers to confront this crisis. In fact, such an approach to emerging infectious diseases is unprecedented, though this conceptual approach has been suggested in other disease outbreak contexts. We propose to bring together scientists, managers, and policy makers to develop an optimal surveillance and monitoring plan based on an adaptive management framework. The plan will also prescribe potential actions based on theoretical but likely scenarios develop from our experience with the amphibian chytrid fungus (Bd) in the US and other countries and the recent experience of our colleagues in Europe with Bsal. We will use a formal, structured working group with participation from scientists and managers from the US and Europe to frame an adaptive management and monitoring plan for this disease.

A formal working group, led by Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) scientists at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (Evan Grant), Fort Collins Science Center (Erin Muths) and Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center (Mike Adams) is scheduled to be held at the Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis in Fort Collins, CO in June.
News & Stories 2015 ARMI annual meeting
Authors: Erin Muths
December 10, 2014
This year the annual ARMI meeting was a no-host event held outside of Denver in early December. This short meeting focused on in-depth discussions about management questions, basic science, and cross-discipline, integrative research to address amphibian declines. Topics included disease, methodologies, web-site and data management advances, and outreach.
News & Stories ARMI research on amphibian chytrid fungus occupancy and detection in wetlands featured in the Environmental Monitor
Authors: T Chestnut
November 03, 2014
The amphibian chytrid fungus is an aquatic fungus implicated as a contributor to amphibian declines worldwide. Most research has focused on the dynamics of the pathogen in its amphibian hosts, with little emphasis on the ecology of the fungus in the environment. Therefore, we investigated patterns of amphibian chytrid fungus occupancy and density in amphibian habitats using occupancy models, powerful tools for estimating site occupancy and detection probability. This study provided evidence that the fungus occurs in the environment year-round, and its density varies seasonally. We detected the amphibian chytrid fungus in 47% of sites sampled, but estimated that it occupied 61% of sites, highlighting the importance of accounting for imperfect detection. When the amphibian chytrid fungus was present, there was a 95% chance of detecting it with four samples of 600 ml of water or five samples of 60 mL. Our findings provide important baseline information to advance the study of Bd disease ecology, and advance our understanding of amphibian exposure to free-living Bd in aquatic habitats over time.

For more coverage from Environmental Monitor, follow the jump: www.fondriest.com/news/new-amphibian-chytrid-fungus-tests-ease-search-wide-ranging-frog-disease.htm
News & Stories ARMI recognized!
Authors: M J Adams
October 31, 2014
The 2014 Special Recognition Award from The Wildlife Society's Biometrics Working Group was presented to the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative. The award is meant to recognize a group or an individual that has made an outstanding contribution to the development and application of quantitative methods to the fields of wildlife science and management. This year the award is presented to the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) implemented by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ARMI has shown a deep appreciation for biometrical methods and their importance for drawing inferences about biological populations and communities. Most significantly ARMI propelled forward the development of a class of models (occupancy) that is now used worldwide by ecologists and conservation biologists. This funding support was largely responsible for dozens of papers on the development of occupancy modeling and for the 2006 book (MacKenzie et al. 2006, Academic Press; see Acknowledgements in this book) summarizing developments to that time. This development has not only been useful to ARMI projects, but has also benefited the worldwide community of animal ecologists, wildlife managers, and the field of biometrics.
News & Stories ARMI recognized!
Authors: M J Adams
October 31, 2014
The 2014 Special Recognition Award from The Wildlife Society's Biometrics Working Group was presented to the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative. The award is meant to recognize a group or an individual that has made an outstanding contribution to the development and application of quantitative methods to the fields of wildlife science and management. This year the award is presented to the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) implemented by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ARMI has shown a deep appreciation for biometrical methods and their importance for drawing inferences about biological populations and communities. Most significantly ARMI propelled forward the development of a class of models (occupancy) that is now used worldwide by ecologists and conservation biologists. This funding support was largely responsible for dozens of papers on the development of occupancy modeling and for the 2006 book (MacKenzie et al. 2006, Academic Press; see Acknowledgements in this book) summarizing developments to that time. This development has not only been useful to ARMI projects, but has also benefited the worldwide community of animal ecologists, wildlife managers, and the field of biometrics.
News & Stories Endangered Mountain Yellow-legged Frogs Released into Wild
Authors: E A Gallegos
May 23, 2014
On May 29, 2014 ARMI biologists Adam Backlin and Elizabeth Gallegos, alongside partners Frank Santana from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research and Ian Recchio and Marlowe Robertson-Billet from the LA Zoo and Botanical Gardens, will be releasing 74 captive bred juvenile endangered mountain yellow-legged frogs [Rana muscosa] into the wild in the San Jacinto Mountains, near Idyllwild, CA. Mountain yellow-legged frogs are endangered in southern California and live in perennial streams in portions of the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and San Jacinto Mountains. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the mountain yellow-legged frog in southern California as endangered in 2002. Reduced to fewer than 200 individuals by 2003, efforts to boost the species’ population have included captive breeding, reintroducing captive offspring to historic habitat, habitat restoration and conducting scientific research into the causes of the species’ decline. This is a joint project conducted by U.S.G.S., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, and zoo partners. Contact: Benjamin Landis for more information.
News & Stories Do Restored Wetlands Provide Quality Amphibian Habitat in an Agricultural Landscape?
Authors: Erin Muths
May 22, 2014
The Des Moines Lobe of central Iowa has undergone drastic land-use changes over the last two centuries, with 90% of the state’s wetlands converted primarily by agricultural practices and urban development. The introduction of tile drainage to improve land for agriculture facilitated this conversion and still contributes to the productivity of this agricultural landscape. Consequently, natural wetland habitat has become rare and fragmented, affecting species with limited mobility, such as amphibians. Amphibians are an important component of these wetland systems where they provide food for other animals and eat copious amounts of insects. However, many amphibian species are at risk world-wide and some are at risk in Iowa.

While loss of habitat is the main reason behind amphibian decline, in the Des Moines Lobe, amphibians are further challenged by an environment potentially compromised by contaminants and their limited mobility exacerbates the effects of habitat fragmentation.

In response to observed ecosystem degradation in environmentally sensitive areas the USDA introduced the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to target high-priority conservation issues. In the year 2001, the state of Iowa partnered with USDA and developed a CREP to strategically locate and restore wetlands on private land that receive run-off from multiple sub-surface tile drains to help reduce the export of nitrates from agricultural watersheds before the water reaches the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Although CREP wetlands are intended primarily to reduce nitrogen to protect drinking water and reduce hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico, they provide other ecosystem services such as providing wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. For example, CREP wetlands and their adjoining grass buffers provide forage and cover for waterfowl and upland game.

For complete article, see here: www.fort.usgs.gov/science-feature/890
News & Stories A surprising find during amphibian research
Authors: Lianne Ball
April 11, 2014
During a routine scheduled recording in February of 2012, a non-amphibian resident of the forest walked past a recorder. Recent analysis of the recording revealed the interesting find.

ARMI uses automated recording units to monitor calling frogs and toads in the Picayune Strand State Forest of Southwest Florida. This state forest, once a failed residential development project known as the Southern Golden Gates Estates, is undergoing hydrological restoration as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Scientists from the Southeast and Southcentral ARMI Regions are testing the idea that amphibians are reliable indicators of restoration success. The sound you hear was confirmed by experts from Big Cypress National Preserve to be the yowling call of a female Florida Panther, possibly signalling to potential mates.

Audio:[AUDIO]FAKA08_20120206.wav[/AUDIO]
News & Stories 2013 ARMI Meeting
Authors: Lianne Ball
December 06, 2013
The Northeast Region hosted the ARMI meeting this year. During this annual meeting, ARMI develops new research projects, brainstorms ideas, and working on new quantitative developments. ARMI loves a creative question, and many have their start at these meetings.
News & Stories ARMI project selected by The Powell Center - Elucidating mechanisms underlying amphibian declines in North America using hierarchical spatial models
Authors: Erin Muths
October 29, 2013
ARMI scientists Evan Grant and Erin Muths, teamed with David Miller (former ARMI post doc and now professor at Pennsylvania State University) to produce the proposal that was selected for Powell Center Support for 2014-2015. The Powell Center is a USGS center that facilitates the development of new and innovative processes by which scientific understanding can be applied to significant and complex issues in a unique setting for analysis and data synthesis.

The proposal moves forward from the recently published paper describing the magnitude of amphibian declines in the U.S. (Adams et al. 2013), and will now examine the mechanisms of decline using a data driven, but model-based, approach. Though focused on North America, the insights will be applicable to other systems and will lay the foundation for a larger, perhaps international, assessment of mechanisms behind global amphibian declines.

The 15 member working group includes not only ARMI scientists and data collected over the last 10 years, but others with long-term data on amphibians including scientists from Canada, Mexico and Europe. The first working group meeting will be held in Fort Collins in January 2014. A hallmark of the Powell Center is that it is "a scientist-driven institution where leveraging existing research efforts produces powerful new insights and moves scientific understanding and its inclusion into management forward at an accelerated pace."

Proposal abstract:

Amphibian populations are declining globally at unprecedented rates but statistically rigorous identification of mechanisms is lacking. Identification of reasons underlying large-scale declines is imperative to plan and implement effective conservation efforts. Most research on amphibian population decline has focused on local populations and local factors. However, the ubiquity of declines across species and landscapes suggests that causal factors at a broader scale are also important. Elucidation of the mechanisms driving population change has lagged, mainly because data have been unavailable at continental scales.

We propose to address this need by assembling data to answer questions about broad-scale drivers of amphibian decline. We will examine alterations in timing and availability of surface-water habitat (driven principally by climate change), as first order variables that control the probabilities of breeding, successful metamorphosis, and return rates of amphibians. Climate change (and its influence on shifting temperatures) is also correlated with other agents of decline such as disease and amplification of cyclical population dynamics; we consider these second-order effects.

Furthermore, data on other causal mechanisms are not available at broad-scales. We will use monitoring data (core data from USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, supplemented by data from collaborators in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico) and state-of-the-art statistical techniques to examine broad-scale mechanisms associated with changes in amphibian occupancy.

We will develop hypotheses for climate-induced shifts in occupancy dynamics, and test these hypotheses using a dataset representing many individual projects and regions from across North America. We will formulate the problem in hierarchical Bayesian models to examine multi-scale processes affecting patterns of species occupancy. This analysis of population trends across multiple spatial scales will facilitate the first rigorous quantitative examination of mechanisms affecting occupancy of amphibians across North America, and provide a continent-wide assessment of the contribution of climate-related factors to declines in amphibian populations. Hypotheses and methods developed through this collaborative effort will be useful in other locations experiencing amphibian declines (e.g., Australia, Europe) and our modeling approach will be useful for assessments of other taxa.

Associated PDF: dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0064347