The Rite of Spring

Ambystoma maculatum on his way to Bull Pasture Pond on the Cornell campus. Photo: C. Zobek

Maybe you already knew this, but our winters are looong, so it makes it even more special to witness the salamander migration to the breeding ponds. This is the real sign that winter has lost its grip on Ithaca!

Our Herpetology class has been waiting for this for weeks! And sure enough… it happens on the Friday before Spring Break when most students have left campus. Tonight Jordan, Nicole, and KZ took the few Herpetology students and Cornell Herp Society members that are still on campus to Bull Pasture Pond. We saw a bunch of Ambystoma jeffersonianum and A. maculatum, learned about sexual interference by spermatophore capping in spotted salamanders, and instagrammed the hell out of the salamanders making their way to the pond. It’s our own special herpetology ritual 🙂

The Global Impact of Chytridiomycosis

Figure 1. Scheele et al., 2019. Amphibian fungal panzootic causes catastrophic and ongoing loss of biodiversity. Science 363: 1459-1463.

We often get asked… how bad is the global Bd epidemic, really?

Our lab participated in a global, quantitative assessment of the amphibian chytridiomycosis panzootic, published today in Science. Chytridiomycosis is one of the most devastating examples of a wildlife epidemic, and this disease played a role in the decline of at least 501 amphibian species over the past half-century, including 90 presumed extinctions. The effects of chytridiomycosis have been greatest in range-restricted anurans, wet climates, and high elevations in the Americas and Australia. Declines peaked in the 1980s, and only 12% of declined species show signs of recovery. Plenty of work to be done still to identify mechanisms of species recovery and develop mitigation actions.

Ben Scheele deserves full credit for leading this huge group of amphibian biologists!

Katie Garrett and Jonathan Kolby made a beautiful (and sobering) video about our results, Cornell Chronicle published a piece on the paper, and Dan Greenberg and Wendy Palen also authored a ‘Perspective’ piece.

Cait McDonald Receives Morris Animal Foundation Fellowship

Congratulations to Cait McDonald! Cait received a MAF Fellowship for her project entitled:  Eastern Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) Immune Responses to the Next Amphibian Threat, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal).

She will be comparing differences in Bsal resistance/susceptibility among newt populations that occupy a latitudinal gradient. Stay tuned for cool results!

Anat Belasen joining our lab as a Smith Fellow

The recently announced 2019 Smith Fellows

Congrats to Anat Belasen, who is finishing up her PhD at University of Michigan and will be joining us in August 2019 as a Smith Post-Doctoral Fellow! Her project, “Leveraging the Past to Preserve the Future: Finding a Litmus Test for Amphibian Disease Susceptibility” will examine genomic changes in frogs impacted by disease, as a means of predicting susceptibility. Anat will be based at Cornell, but also advised by Rob Fleischer at Smithsonian National Zoo Center for Conservation Genomics, and Laura Patterson (state herpetologist) at California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Welcome Anat!