New graduate student starts at Colorado State University, funded jointly by ARMI, Colorado State University, and Rocky Mountain National Park.

By: Muths E; 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.

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