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Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

Disease Risk for Mountain Amphibians of California

Photo of Swabbing a Cascades frog to test disease status. USDA Forest ServiceSwabbing a Cascades frog to test disease status. USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Chytridiomycosis, an infectious disease caused by a fungus, has emerged as a catastrophic global pandemic in amphibians within the past several decades. In California's northern mountains, the Cascades frog has declined dramatically due to the disease. Forest Service researchers are studying multiple aspects of the disease-host dynamics to understand risks to population persistance, evolution of virulence, and potential treatments to minimize effects on susceptible populations.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Pope, Karen L. 
Research Location : Aquatic habitats throughout the Klamath Mountains and southern Cascade Range
Research Station : Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 813


Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is an emerging fungal pathogen that has been implicated in epidemics and extinctions of amphibians worldwide. Its effect on amphibians has been described as “the most spectacular loss of vertebrate biodiversity due to disease in recorded history.” Forest Service scientists and partners are helping to prevent extinctions of California's mountain amphibians due to Bd by understanding the interaction between characteristics of host, pathogen and environment (the “epidemiologic triangle”) and developing viable disease treatments for wild populations. The researchers have combined field and laboratory experiments with field observations to determine frog life stages most susceptible to the disease, environmental and climatic conditions that affect disease-host dynamics, and differential virulence strains within the disease. These findings are being used to identify the most “at risk” populations and develop treatments to increase the liklihood of survival.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Lassen National Forest
  • Humboldt State University Departments of Biology and Wildlife
  • Janet Foley, UC Davis Department of Medicine and Epidemiology
  • Jonah Piovia-Scott, UC Riverside Department of Biology
  • USFWS Contaminants Division?