06/29/16

Junior Herpetologist of the Year Sarah Brabec

Frogs Are Green is proud to repost this wonderful article sent to us by Lisa and Sarah Brabec. We couldn’t agree more and look forward to hearing from Sarah when she’s closer to us on the East coast!

By Anna Spoerre
Journal Star reporter

BRIMFIELD — To Sarah Brabec, herpetology is more than just the study of reptiles and amphibians, it’s a lifestyle.

On a recent day, the 90-degree weather didn’t seem to bother Brabec, 14, as she waded barefoot through a creek at Jubilee College State Park, a small green net in hand. Two large tadpoles resurfaced with the mesh — an exciting catch for the Junior Herpetologist of the Year at the 2016 International Herpetological Symposium.

“(Herpetology) is more than just a hobby,” Brabec said. “It’s a passion … something I want to spend my life doing.”

Brabec is presenting at the 39th annual International Herpetological Symposium that began Wednesday and runs through Saturday in St. Louis. There, she joins experts in discussions and programs about the scaly, cold-blooded creatures.

Sarah Brebac

“It’s just amazing how much she’s been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time,” said Jill Wallace, an environmental educator at Sugar Grove Nature Center in McLean, where Brabec likes to visit with her family.

When she was 6, Brabec joined the Central Illinois Herpetological Society. During her time there she’s presented in front of hundreds of people and helped to start a junior program within the society, said Doug Holmes, president of the society.

She said last year’s international conference in Austin, Texas — which she participated in as a runner-up — taught her that herpetology is about more than saving frogs. It’s about helping to promote public interest, she said, which falls in line with increasingly popular education-based global sustainability practices.

“The key need in conservation success is education of younger kids,” Brabec said.

Sarah Brebac examines amphibian

She began teaching children to conserve and save animals in Peoria, going into classrooms and talking to grade-schoolers about reptiles. Sometimes she brings her favorite creatures along to engage the students.

“You can hold frogs in your hands,” Brabec said. “Kids can really connect to that.”

She would know. Brabec’s mother, Lisa Brabec, said she started chasing reptiles when she was 4, always returning home with a new animal hidden behind her back.

“When they find their passion, feed it,” said Lisa Brabec, who often takes her daughter exploring at nearby creeks and ponds.

When asked about some of the more interesting moments that come with having a house full of reptiles and amphibians, she said with a chuckle, “my Mother’s Day gift went missing one year.”

Sixth months later they found the runaway snake hiding between their kitchen cabinets. Despite this, Lisa Brabec said she’s grown fonder of all slimy, slithery creatures her daughter introduces to the family.

“My parents are troopers,” the younger Brabec said with a smile.

Last year, Sarah Brabec even began writing a children’s book with a local herpetologist. But, the project has been put on hold.

“I learned that all it takes for kids is adults who think they’re capable,” Lisa Brabec said.

Though Sarah Brabec said she doesn’t know exactly what she wants to do in the future, she said saving wildlife is crucial, and she wants to continue playing a role in that endeavor.

In the meantime, she and her family are preparing to move to Atlanta later this summer, where Sarah Brabec said she’s excited to find eastern narrow mouth toads.

“You can just tell some kids are really hooked,” Holmes said. “I think eventually she’ll make a career out of it.”

Anna Spoerre can be reached at 686-3296 and aspoerre@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/annaspoerre.

04/27/16

The Bully of All Toads

Currently in Madagascar there is a bully. But, this is not your typical bully. This bully is the Asian toad, also known as Duttaphrynus melanostictus. The toads are threatening rare wildlife and frightening locals.

Madagascar provides a niche-like haven for these primarily lowland dwelling toads. Photo © Arthur Chapman Courtesy of Amphibians.org - Amphibian Survival Alliance.

Madagascar provides a niche-like haven for these primarily lowland dwelling toads. Photo © Arthur Chapman Courtesy of Amphibians.org – Amphibian Survival Alliance.

The theory on how they got to Madagascar is that they hitched a ride in some shipping containers from Asia between 2007 -2010. While Madagascar doesn’t have native toads, people who saw these bullies roaming knew something was wrong. And still no one knows why they have decided to make Madagascar their new home.

These toads are endangering locals, harming snakes, lemurs and exotic animals that are unique to the island. If they feed off these toads they will be poisoned, since these toads are known to be very poisonous. Smaller animals can shrink in size and as species, become extinct.

Asian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) in Madagascar by Franco Andreone.

Asian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) in Madagascar by Franco Andreone.

Scientists are still trying to come up with ideas on how to get rid of these toads and such measures wouldn’t be horribly expensive. It would cost about $2 million to $10 million (the effort would need only a wealthy backer from the West) — but that’s really just a guess. No one knows exactly where the toads are or precisely how many are in Madagascar. There’s no easy way to find them, and there’s no quick method of dispatching them, at least not in the numbers necessary for eradication.

And then there’s the fact that no one has tried to remove invasive toads on such a scale before. There have been three successful removal projects, but they were all in much smaller areas.

Asian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) in Madagascar by Franco Andreone, close up

Asian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) in Madagascar by Franco Andreone, close up.

So it looks like eradication won’t be possible, the scientists conclude, at least without a lot more research that would let managers and the government overcome many hurdles. And by that time, the toads will probably have become so numerous that, like in Australia, any such efforts would be impossible.

 
Leight-Ann BradyGuest post by Leigh-Ann Brady, who resides in NJ with her 8 year son. She is an artist and writer who is also concerned about the environment.

12/13/15

Reptile Kingdom Resides in Painting Workshop

Dec.6, 2015
Text by LAN Lianchao
Video by LAN Lianchao & CHANG Zhuojin & SHI Xinyue & LIU Yuting

Hundreds of transparent boxes are piled up against the wall, with simulated wild environments. The residents of those cubical rooms have watched the day and night of the painting workshop, ARTTRA, for seven years.

The vivarium belongs to a painter, Herman Chan, 41, who has over 100 reptiles from about 50 species.

“Maybe you can not find a second painting workshop with so many reptiles in Hong Kong,” he says.

Chan’s pets attract people who learn painting in a way of improving their ability of observation. Reptile knowledge is a bonus for curious students.

Chan says he collects and breeds various species of reptiles on purpose. “I enjoy taking care of them technically,” he says.

The first reptile owned by Chan was a salamander when he was in the primary school. Since then he has never stopped.

Chan used to raise his reptiles at home, afraid of customers’ resistance against them. He says he hopes to stay with them more, not only the time after work.

Not until he took a chameleon to the studio did he find the charisma of his pets. Children are really into it and inspired to watch the detailed of the animal, Chan says.

Meanwhile Chan tells them chameleons change color due to the temperature, humidity or light, not the background colors thought by many people.

“The studio is a perfect combination of my hobby and job,” Chan adds. “It is an incubator for my reptiles and my painting.”

Chan Tsz Yin Andrea, 5 yrs old, Hong Kong, Arttra.

Chan Tsz Yin Andrea, 5 yrs old, Hong Kong, Arttra.

With the Frogs Are Green annual children’s art contest deadline approaching, you can see how engaged the young students are by learning about amphibians and reptiles, seeing them up close, and then expressing themselves through art. I’m thrilled that Herman’s students entered our annual contest!

This blog was originally posted on https://lanlianchao.wordpress.com Frogs Are Green has permission to repost it.

11/28/15

How Bd has impacted Arizona’s amphibian species

A Frogs Are Green eco-interview with Nick Massimo and Evan Brus.

When was your organization founded? Please tell us a bit about its/your mission, goals… When did you first begin this important work?

Evan and I are both PhD students studying the disease dynamics of a deadly fungal pathogen that infects amphibians all over the world. The pathogen is Batrachochtrium dendrobatidis (Bd), and it causes the disease called chytridiomycosis. This disease was first noticed in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a wave of mass amphibian mortality events swept through Central America. Further research linked Bd to mass amphibian die offs and the extinction of multiple amphibian species all over the world.

Recent research has created a picture of how this pathogen may have originated in Brazil and spread to North America over 100 years ago. The oldest amphibian specimen that’s tested positive for Bd was in Illinois in 1888. Then, in the 1920s Bd was detected in California. Approximately 50 years passed before Bd was detected again in southern Mexico in 1972. The detection of Bd in Mexico was then tracked south into Central America where researchers first noticed the dramatic effects Bd could have on amphibian communities. The goal of our project is to better understand how Bd spread in the Americas, possibly passing through Arizona and to determine how this pathogen has impacted Arizona’s numerous amphibian species.

What is your educational background and what lead to wanting to specialize in this area and/or create your organization?

Nick Massimo

Nick MassimoI received a BS in biology and nutritional sciences and a minor in chemistry from the University of Arizona in 2011. After I graduated with my BS I spent two years working on numerous research projects studying species such as the Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum), desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii), fungal endophytes (fungi that live inside plants), and several other herpertofauna species from the southwestern United States. I gained these experiences working with the University of Arizona, the Arizona Game and Fish Department and a not-for-profit group, Friends of Saguaro National Park. The combination of knowledge I gained from mycological and herpetological research in Arizona provided a great platform for me to pursue my PhD at Arizona State University studying how a fungal pathogen affects Arizona amphibians.

 

Evan Brus

Evan BrusI received my B.S in Zoology, French, and Environmental Studies from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 2011. During and after college, I worked in a social insect behavior lab studying the signals and cues that regulate nest construction in Polybia occidentalis, eventually traveling to Costa Rica to do research there. While studying for an ecology course, I happened upon the book Extinction in Our Times by my current advisor, James Collins. I was immediately intrigued by the story of amphibian declines, and I applied to do my PhD in his lab at ASU the following year.

 

Who would say has influenced you or your work?

Nick Massimo

I was inspired to pursue a career in biodiversity conservation by my early childhood experiences where I spent time with my family enjoying the great outdoors. Through these experiences I developed a deep appreciation of our beautifully complex natural world. The time I spent at the University of Arizona pursuing my BS continued to guide me to pursue a career in conservation due to some of my wonderful professors. Dr. Robichaux, Dr. Bonine and especially Dr. Arnold helped provide me with fantastic experiences and mentoring opportunities at the University of Arizona. Towards the end of my bachelor degree I received an internship with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. My advisor, David Grandmaison, introduced me to a wide array of projects focusing on conservation strategies for mammal, bird, reptile and amphibian species in Arizona.

After I graduated, I received a job with my most influential mentor, Dr. Betsy Arnold. During my time working with Dr. Arnold, I gained a large amount of experience on how to develop, conduct and conclude an intricate research project working with fungi that live inside of plants. Without the help and mentorship Dr. Arnold provided me, I would not be where I am today. Dr. Arnold has been my most influential mentor.

 

Evan Brus

Like many biologists and ecologists, I grew up with a deep appreciation for nature. I was lucky enough to live in a relatively rural area of Wisconsin surrounded by streams and forests, which I relished as a child. My early experiences exploring the outdoors informed my initial choice to study biology, but I credit several college professors for helping me refine my interests and encouraging my work. My undergraduate research mentor Dr. Robert Jeanne, as well as his grad students Ben Taylor and Teresa Schueller, taught me the culture of academia and the skills needed for data collection, analysis, and eventual publication. Without my experiences in this research group, I probably would not be a scientist today. My other major influence was Dr. Calvin DeWitt, who taught my introductory ecology course with fervent enthusiasm and took personal interest in all his students. I learned from him how to pursue my passions and how to visualize the myriad connections between humans and the natural world in everyday life. Currently, I draw inspiration from the broad community of scientists researching amphibian decline and chytridiomycosis, too many to name. The quantity and quality of research produced in our field is remarkable, and everyone is willing to help one another and collaborate. It’s a very welcoming and dedicated community.

 

Please share the details of your work: the medium, technique and discoveries.

Our project will analyze how Bd may have been introduced into Arizona and how its introduction could have shaped Arizona amphibian distributions. In order to investigate these questions amphibian specimens housed in natural history collections will be assessed for the presence of Bd. Our work will determine at what time were certain species infected with Bd in the state, and do these historic infections help us understand the dramatic decline of leopard frog species in Arizona.

testing Arizona frogs for Bd

Our work will rely on testing amphibian skin for the presence of Bd DNA. In order to do this, we will swab amphibian specimens stored in natural history. DNA extractions will then be performed following protocols used by other researchers who have recently completed similar projects analyzing museum specimens. After DNA extractions are complete, real time PCR will be used to determine if fungal pathogen DNA is present and if so, quantify the pathogen load on the specimen. Once all of this data is collected we will gain an understanding of the disease dynamics of Bd in Arizona. This information will help determine when this deadly pathogen arrived in Arizona, what species of amphibians it infected after it arrived across time, and a possible mechanism that brought it to the state (e.g. invasive species, the bait trade etc.). Finally, this information will be used to help establish management plans to mitigate the spread of this pathogen in amphibian populations that are currently infected with Bd and also provide critical information on how to keep Bd out of populations that are currently uninfected.

We have not started our project yet. Other researchers who have recently completed similar projects have discovered Bd on amphibians in natural history collections in the past. Their work has helped us form our hypotheses on how Bd may have entered Arizona as it spread south into Mexico and Central America. Based off of a previous project we know that Bd was found on a Chiricahua Leopard Frog in Arizona as early as 1972. We would like to conduct an extensive project to discover the very important disease dynamics of Bd in Arizona, that’s why we are trying to raise funds for our research with the Instrumentl crowdfunding campaign (https://www.instrumentl.com/campaigns/history-of-a-deadly-disease-in-arizona-amphibians/).

how Bd may have spread through the Americas

How Bd may have spread to Arizona

What has been the most exciting discovery?

As we reviewed recent research conducted by other scientists we were intrigued to learn that this fungal pathogen has a very complex history. Unraveling the history of this extremely deadly amphibian disease is made even more moving as amphibians are the most threatened Class of vertebrates on the planet (IUCN Red List Report 2015). This information paired with recent research indicates that amphibians are experiencing extraordinarily high extinction rates currently than they have in the past. We find this information extremely motivating, as we’d like to conserve amphibian biodiversity for the well being of ecosystems and for our future generations.

What are some challenges you have faced and how did you deal with them?

The biggest challenge we are currently facing is obtaining funding to conduct this important project. The scientific field as a whole has been experiencing a shortage of funds to carry out extremely important research projects, and our field is no different. To combat this issue, we are currently exploring new avenues to fund our research endeavors. This is where the crowdfunding campaign (https://www.instrumentl.com/campaigns/history-of-a-deadly-disease-in-arizona-amphibians/) comes into play. We are trying to reach out to our community more directly and get them engaged with our project. We’d like to communicate the challenge we, as scientists face, as well as the challenges amphibians are now incurring.

How do you reach your targeted audience?

Is it through your website, exhibitions, advertising or social media or another route? Which is most effective and why?

We are exploring a variety of options to engage our audience. We have been reaching out to our close colleagues, research and herpetology community directly through word of mouth and email to generate support for our project. Additionally, we have also used social media (Facebook and Twitter) to gain support for our research project. Both of these avenues have provided support for our project but we’d like to reach more people. To do this, we are contacting people and groups located within Arizona to convey that this project will directly impact the amphibian biodiversity of our state and in other parts of the world.

How do you keep the audience engaged over time?

We’ve created a Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/905234229573944/) to keep our audience up to date on the progression of our research project as it’s being conducted. This will keep our audience up to date on the current status of our project and the exciting discoveries we’re making. In addition to our Facebook group, we are also planning to present the results of our study in a scientific journal article and present this information to our community in a series of talks.

What can we do to inspire the next generation to want to help the environment and the wildlife?

The information we gain from completing this study will directly lend to the construction of effective amphibian biodiversity conservation strategies. Without the help from our next generation we are at risk of losing much of the amazing amphibian biodiversity on our planet. The Frogs Are Green organization could be a wonderful partner in helping us to spread our project to its supporters. We feel that this organization can help reach a younger and broader audience than we’ve been able to reach thus far. In order for the meaningfulness of our research to be effective we need our next generations to know about the wonderful and beautiful amphibian biodiversity our planet has to offer.

What can people do to help? Donate and/or share to your cause/work?

We would be most appreciative if individuals would pledge to share our campaign with friends and colleagues using social media. We hope to reach as many people as possible because we feel the current state of our planet’s amphibian biodiversity is at a critical point. As a community we need to act now to preserve these species to maintain healthy ecosystems and for future generations. Sharing our campaign would help us reach our goal however we would be extremely thankful if people would also donate to our project so we can conduct this extremely important research.

10/20/15

Frog color patterns and the lack of color on the ventral surface

Frogs are a component of an exclusive cluster of the animal realm that have a part in the subtle equilibrium of both the ecosystem and the food chain. Frogs can be seen more or less any place apart from Antarctica. The majority of frogs are found in tropical areas and more frogs are found in the hotter countries. There are approximately 4,740 species of frogs on the planet. They are in fact remarkable creatures that come in a huge range of sizes as well as colors.

Frogs generally eat insects such as flies, as well as, worms and small fish. In some cultures, frogs are believed to bring good luck. Noticeably, some frogs, such as the poison dart frog, have an adequate amount of toxin in their miniscule bodies to take the life of a human being. Some species of frogs are capable of changing their skin color, and a few of them have a similar skin color as their environment.

By liz west (leopard frog2) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By liz west (leopard frog2) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Without a doubt, frogs have several natural predators. Generally frogs are responsive to predators, which is why frogs put down a lot of eggs at a time. A few of the main predators of frogs are comprised of reptiles, like snakes and lizards. Some fish will eat frogs, and birds will also eat frogs. Frogs are always in danger of predators and unfortunately, humans also eat frogs. Luckily, frogs have developed many techniques for defending themselves from these predators.

The color patterns of frogs and their lack of color on the ventral surface, allow frogs to escape from predators. Usually, the underside of the frog is a lighter color than the top side for the reason that if the frog is hanging on top of the water and a predator is searching for a frog, the suns glare makes the frog difficult to spot. There are shady marks on the bottom and as a result it doesn’t expose the silhouette of the frog. Some of the frog’s upper side is darker since when swimming in the underneath of a dark pond, so it coordinates with the bottom.

By fa:User:Juybari (fa:File:Frog in Water.jpg) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

By fa:User:Juybari (fa:File:Frog in Water.jpg) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Frogs have a huge range of skin colors and patterns, which indeed help them from their natural predators. Colors can aid as a warning to predators that the frog may be toxic. Some frogs have the ability to change the color of their skin to adjust their heat soaking up rate, which assist them in managing their temperature. Just like other creatures, a frog’s skin and its color can be a sign of poison. Eating a blue frog can be deadly. So, the blue colored frogs offer a sign that they are not edible.

By Michael Gäbler (own work (eigenes Werk)) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Michael Gäbler (own work (eigenes Werk)) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Some studies have shown that the techniques for getting the better of a predator rely on the species of frog, but several of these resistances contain the utilization of color. It is found that some of the frogs have developed patterns on their backs that bamboozle or confuse aerial predators. The patterns cover up the shape of the frog; as a result, the predator doesn’t identify it as something safe to eat.

The largest parts of frogs are not dangerous, but there are some frogs that take advantage of poison as a self-protection tactic. Research reveals that some frogs have deadly poisons that could make a human harshly sick, or even kill someone. The toxic frogs such as the poison dart frog generally have brightly colored skin that stands as a caution. The toxic frogs have in fact very few predators. Frogs such as the barred leaf frog have light patterns on their legs and body. So, when the frog runs, these patterns will make the predator puzzled.

The animal kingdom makes use of a lot of tactics in order to save themselves from predators. Frogs are amazing and they use a lot of techniques to fool predators. Basically the upper surfaces of frogs are dark and go with their environment so that they are hidden from predators viewing them from above. The ventral surfaces of most of the frogs are normally a light color so that it will be disguised against the lighter sky while observed from underneath.

On land, a frog’s enemies will attack them from above and therefore, the color on its upper side serves as concealment. In water, the frog is susceptible to assault from below. For the most part, frog’s ventral surface is seldom uncovered to the sight of predators, so these surfaces don’t require camouflage. Frogs have a variety of patterns and colors that protects them from natural predators and harsh environments.

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Guest blog by Ligia Blake, who is a freelance blog writer and works for essayscouncil.com, a custom essay writing service with a passion of helping out students.

08/3/15

Will the Fungus Killing Salamanders Come to the US?

There is nothing more important right now to the survival of Salamanders than the United States stopping the importation of them from Europe and Asia.

From the New York Times article, “Importing Both Salamanders and Their Potential Destruction.”

“You would think there would be something in place,” said Vance T. Vredenburg, a biologist at San Francisco State University. “We really need a government agency at some level to take action and do something.”

…The pet trade brings huge numbers of salamanders into the United States. Fish and Wildlife Service records show that about 780,000 salamanders were imported from 2010 to 2014. Dr. Vredenburg and his colleagues found that 98 percent of the imported animals were native to Asia.

We have been watching Chytrid Fungus, or Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd for short) wipe out many species of frogs. Humans have helped spread this disease around the world and now we have an opportunity, if we act quickly to help the salamanders.

We’re worried about the Asian fungus that causes the disease “Bsal” which has already reached Europe, wiping out 96 percent of fire salamanders in the Netherlands. Now, researchers have determined that the fungus will spread like wildfire if it reaches North America, and they’re calling for an immediate ban on all salamander imports.

Fire Salamander from Wikipedia Commons

Fire Salamander from Wikipedia Commons.

Below are a series of articles on this topic from the past week:

NPR >> Scientists Urge Ban On Salamander Imports To U.S. To Keep Fungus At Bay

 

UC Berkeley >> Scientists urge ban on salamander imports to fend off new fungus

 

The Verge >> North America’s salamanders threatened by bloody skin disease

 

Tech Times >> Bsal Fungus Can Wipe Out U.S. Salamander Population: What To Know