Amphibian diseases are emerging as an important concern in the study of amphibian declines. While NE ARMI does not focus intensively on amphibian disease research, the issue plays an important role in our activities.
ARMI researchers enter amphibian disease data into the ARMI database and send diseased or recently dead amphibians to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, WI, where Dr. David E. Green examines and diagnoses the amphibians. As we learn more about amphibian diseases, concern has grown that field scientists may be vectors for transmitting diseases among study sites. We follow biosecurity protocols to reduce the risk of carrying disease accidentally between habitats. These protocols should be used by anyone conducting fieldwork in and around amphibian habitat, including wetlands, breeding sites, or upland areas known to be used by amphibians. In general, these protocols recommend disinfection of all equipment, including, but not limited to, waders, nets, and calipers in a > 10% bleach solution between drainages. Thorough scrubbing with a bleach solution is critical for proper disinfection of equipment.
As an example of our research on amphibian diseases, in 2005 we discovered Batrochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd. chytrid) in one of our long-term wetland monitoring sites. Since then we have strategically selected sample locations from which to collect specimens for disease screening. To examine the local distribution of Bd. chytrid we sent 4 tadpoles (Rana clamitans or R. catesbeiana) from 5 wetlands surrounding the initial positive site (20 tadpoles total) to Dr. David Green at the NWHC for analysis. Additionally, as part of a new collaboration with a researcher from Virginia Commonwealth University (Dr. Joy Ware), we sampled amphibians to study the potential transmission of Bd. chytrid among stream salamanders and juvenile and adult Rana clamitans or R. catesbeiana (reported in Grant et al. 2008 ).For more information on amphibian disease, see the Amphibian Disease List (Ranavirus, Ichthyophonus fungus, Chytrid fungus, Water Mold (Saprolegniasis), Mesomycetozoan organism).
What you can do
We encourage partners and the general public to report amphibian disease outbreaks or mortality events to NWHC or their local wildlife department. We also encourage all amphibian surveyors to pratice sterile techniques to help protect local amphibian populations.