Wondering what to do on your days off? I say create your own amphibian adventure to help celebrate Year of the Frog! Last weekend, Andy Avrum (a naturalist by trade) took some friends out and about Lake County in search of marbled salamanders. It was great. It seemed that every log he rolled had a salamander under it. The day was mostly just for fun, but while having our fun, we did help with an ongoing research project being conducted by Cleveland Metroparks and Mount Union College.The project is surveying amphibians around northern Ohio looking for the deadly chytrid fungus. It is thought that this fungus, which is decimating amphibian populations in the humid tropics, has been here in Ohio for many years, but because of our temperate climate the fungus doesn't thrive. One theory is that our amphibians have been given time to adapt to this fungus since the fungus is rather weak in this climate. Over time, our Ohio amphibians developed resistance to the fungus. We are hoping to not only survey the amphibian populations which carry chytrid here in Ohio, but this study will also help us better understand the fungus so that we may someday be able to save other amphibian populations from this deadly foe.
Sampling for the fungus is a noninvasive procedure in which we swab the amphibians' skin (with sterile Q tips) and preserve the skin swabs so that they can later be analyzed for the presence of the chytrid fungus. To look for the fungus, the researchers actually have to isolate the DNA of the fungus from the sample—our very own CSI, amphibian style. On this trip, we sampled marbled salamanders, spotted salamanders, green frogs, and American toads.
If you too would like to participate in this ongoing research study, contact Tim Krynak at North Chagrin Nature Center. All ages can help!
Thanks Andy for a great weekend amphibian adventure! And remember, if you go out looking for amphibians, be respectful of them and their homes. Always place their rocks and logs back just the way you found them.
Swabbing for chytrid fungus
More chytrid fungus swabbings
Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum)
Photos courtesy of Tim Krynak.