Research Overview



Research Overview

For a long time, Chytrid fungi were thought to be free-living saprophytes with only few species capable of infecting plants and invertebrates. However, a new species with deadly characteristics surfaced in 1999, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) that could infect the skin cells of many amphibians, causing the often fatal chytridiomycosis. Many scientists now link the spread of Bd to the rapidly declining amphibian populations (For more on the amphibian decline debate, read Collins and Storfer 2003). The mass extinction of amphibians threaten the sustainablity of many ecosystems that depend on the roles of these animals.

Bd most lkely originated in South Africa and spread through water and amphibian-to-amphibian contact (For more on the history of Bd, read Weldon et al. 2004; Ouellet et al. 2003). Bd thrives in moist cool habitats and its possible transmission through water makes its infectious rates exponential. Not all amphibian species are at risk. For example, American Bull Frogs show resistance to the fungi. While the presence of resistance species might seem extremely beneficial, resistant species may actually pose a greater threat due to their role as Bd carriers, transmitting the fungi to new areas and infecting other susceptible species (For more on resistance, read Woodhams et al. 2007).

While the spread of Bd has been thoroughly studied in areas such as Central America, its affect in other climates like North America is unclear. The varied climates of North America may keep Bd from spreading in certain regions but no studies have been done in our area. (For more on climate, read Kiger and Hero 2006). In addition, in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, little is known about whether Bd poses danger to local amphibains. In collaboration with Dr. Michael E. Dorcas (Davidson College) and his herpetology lab, we hope to develop and refine a procedure to detect amphibain DNA from field samples, as well as, quantify the infection of those identified to have Bd spores on their skin.

Chytrid Life Cycle (Top) and the Global Spread of Chytrid (Bottom)



Photo credits can be found on acknowlegements page
This site was designed and created by G. Bomar as part of a summer undergraduate research program at Davidson College.

Bd Detection and Data Analysis






















For comments or questions contact G. Bomar:
Davidson College,  Davidson,  North Carolina 28035.