Archive for Education

Deadly fungus threatens U.S. salamanders

A new type of “chytrid” fungus has escaped from Asia and is killing European fire salamanders. This fungus is known as Bsal (short for Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans) and is closely related to the infamous Bd (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) that has been causing massive die-offs of frogs across the globe. But until recently, no one knew if Bsal could infect other species besides fire salamanders. In a recent study, European researchers tested more than 30 species of frogs and salamanders to see which were susceptible to Bsal. Frog lovers finally got a bit of good news – all 10 frog species tested were completely resistant to Bsal. But a very different – and alarming – result emerged when salamanders were infected with the fungus.

The fungus was first discovered when it started killing European fire salamanders, like the one shown here.

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Hellbenders on HERPIN’ TIME radio

Hellbenders are on the air! Today I discussed the bizarre biology of giant salamanders on Herpin’ Time Radio. The show’s hosts, Justin Guyer and JD Hartzel, are die-hard herpers who promote responsible pet ownership and conservation of amphibians and reptiles. (Though for hellbenders, ‘responsible’ means leaving them in the wild.) Also on the show was Tim Healy from the National Audubon Society and Obed Hernández-Gomez from Purdue University. We talked about Tim’s reintroduction efforts, Obed’s ground-breaking research, and my new role as hellbender DNA detective. Listen to the full story here and learn more about hellbender conservation at Purdue University’s amazing hellbender website.

New Internship Available in Amphibian Health!

Woooood frogA new internship in amphibian health is being offered through the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (Front Royal, VA). The intern will assist in an ongoing study of Ranavirus infection in amphibians throughout Virginia, and the information gained from this research will help protect wild frogs and salamanders in this region.

Activities and learning opportunities

  • Monitor signs of amphibian breeding at ponds throughout northern VA
  • Learn to identify signs of Ranavirus infection in amphibians
  • Collect and euthanize tadpoles for Ranavirus testing
  • Participate in amphibian-related outreach and education efforts Read more

Cows and Salamanders

Kim and JD teach some energetic 6th graders about local amphibians and reptiles.

Kim and JD teach some energetic 6th graders about local amphibians and reptiles.

Scientists and farmers teamed up this week to teach kids about all the critters that live on and around a farm – including salamanders! Kim and JD were at the annual Farm Field Day in Glade Spring, VA, where more than 300 local 6th graders learned about everything from corn to canebrake rattlesnakes. Read more