Seeking funding to investigate the presence of the amphibian chytrid fungus in a non-native species

Swabbing midwife toad. Photo by Steven Allen

Swabbing midwife toad. Photo by Steven Allen

By Steven J R Allain and Mark James Goodman, text taken directly from experiment.com

Backed by Brian Colin Eversham, Talita Bateman, Lindsay Stronge, and Clare Worden

About the project 

Click here for comprehensive information and how to fund from experiment.com

We’re currently studying a population of the common midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans) in Cambridge, England. The species is non-native and our current goal is to screen the population for the amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), which has been implemented in amphibian population declines worldwide. As an introduced species, the disease is one of the biggest threats to our native herpetofauna.
What is the context of this research?

This project has been ongoing for the past couple of years. In 2015, the first midwife toads were confirmed. Since then, we have continued to swab toads for the fungus, although only a small number of samples have been analysed. Currently we are working on producing a manuscript to be published in a peer-reviewed journal with our initial results. We hope to raise the funds to pay for the analysis of the swabs currently in cold storage and also allow us to continue the project into the next year or two.

What is the significance of this project?

The chytrid fungus has already caused the extinction of 200 amphibian species and threatens hundreds more around the globe. One of the main introduction routes for the disease is through the introduction of non-native species. The disease affects different species and populations differently and so infected animals may not show clinical signs of infection. This means that screening them by swabbing for the disease is the only way we’ll know whether or not they are infected.

What are the goals of the project?

We aim to establish whether or not, as a non-native species, the midwife toads we are studying are acting as a vector of the chytrid fungus. Through analysis we also wish to determine how prevalent the disease is, if it is present, and how we can mitigate the spread to local amphibians. We’ve been taking morphometric data of all of the toads we swab (including tadpoles) so that we can build a better idea of the population structure too. This, twinned with the results from the swabs, will allow us to see which individuals were infected, the location they were found and their age-class. Using this information we should be able to track transmission pathways (if the disease is present).

Budget

Chytrid Swab Analysis$1,500
The only real cost we have is the analysis of our samples which cost ~$30 per sample. This analysis is a qPCR test which tests the samples for chytrid fungus DNA, which will be carried out at the Institute of Zoology, London Zoo. We estimate the population to be between 50 and 100 individuals, we’d like to sample at least half of these if possible. The budget will allow us to pay for the analysis of approximately 50 samples and will only be used on analysis.

 

 

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A final word

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Due to unplanned but necessary travel in December, unfortunately the activity we had planned didn’t happen. Many thanks indeed to all we collaborated with in 2016 to put events on, to Lush and Inder’s Kitchen for funding us, to OP Community Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council for their support, and to everyone who came to events and took action to help wildlife. We will be drafting our activity plan for 2017 early next year, we are looking at forging new links with existing groups. Having heard him speak in the Summer in the university building named after him, I’ll leave the last word of 2016 to David Attenborough ……

Tracking Terrapins in Cambridge

 

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Screen grab from Tracking Terrapins website homepage

Tracking Terrapins in Cambridge is a new website to track sightings of these invasive species in the Cambridgeshire area. It was set up by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group.

From the website “Terrapins are an invasive species in the UK, they often find their way into local waterways after growing too large for their owners to keep. Here the terrapins are free from any natural predators and can have disastrous effects on local ecosystems. We would like your help to report any sightings within Cambridgeshire so we can build a better understanding of how numerous they are. Eventually we intend to assess how much of an impact they have on local wildlife”.

Click on the Tracking Terrapins in Cambridge link below the photo to go to the website, more details on the project, and to see how you can help.

Orchard Park Summer Safari Sunday 17 July 7.30pm

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Free, fun, helpful, healthy, accessible and informative – we hope you’ll join us for our Orchard Park Summer Safari in the evening of Sunday 17 July. Meet outside the Travelodge Hotel, Chieftain Way (click for map), at 7.30pm. You’re welcome to join us for as long or little as you like.

It’s an opportunity to have a closer look at the wildlife on your doorstep, learn about it, and what you can do to help. You’ll be surprised to see what lives here when you look… especially when guided by very knowledgeable naturalists – we are grateful to Tim and Carol Inskipp who will be providing their expertise again to help us identify the animals and plants we come across. We’ll have a look around the perimeter of where the lizards currently live in Orchard Park, this area is rich in invertebrates – which the lizards eat. We hope someone from Cambridge and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group will join us. The area also has mature trees nearby, the only ones within Orchard Park, and they’re a microhabitat in themselves. We’ll see where the wildlife takes us before looking at the wildflower area on Ring Fort Road, the orchard and meadow, and then at dusk we’ll head over to Wildlife Area to have a look for bats with our detector (we thank #lushcambridge @lushcambridge for their Charity Pot event providing funds for our detector).

Orchard Park Wildlife Project will send any new wildlife records to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre, the Summer Safari is like a micro sized and laid back bioblitz, where we find and identify as many plants and animals as we can, but stopping to look and explore as we find wildlife to look at.

As well as being good for wildlife, activities such as the Summer Safari are proven to be good for you too:  “..a body of restorative literature focuses on the potential benefits to emotional recovery from stress offered by green space and ‘soft fascination'” according to Aspinall et al 2015. For more information from the scientific paper click the lead author’s name link above. If you’d like to see more in a popular science format, then have a look at this article: Science proves what we all know: Nature is Good for your Health!

This is a free and accessible event suitable for all ages and abilities.

To see a blog post about what we found to look at during our Summer Safari last year click: Summer Safari Summary

Snaps of Two of Twenty Lizards, Spotted in Just One Hour on Sunday :)

We had much better weather yesterday morning than forecast, the sun was shining, and the clouds were few. We spotted twenty lizards yesterday in around an hour surveying the fence, mostly adult males, and a few subadults.

I wonder how many there are out there….

‘Ere there be lots of (teeny weeny) Dragons: Zootoca vivipara

A good number of us went out today to look for lizards between 10.00 and midday. The weather was warmer than forecast, and we saw a total of 16 lizards comprising males, females, and sub adults basking on the fence. We’ll be heading over again next weekend, weather permitting, do join us if you can.

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Close up, adult male

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Female with previous year’s young

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Adult male

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Adult  female

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Adult male

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Young female re-growing tail

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Adult female

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Adult male

Short video

Photos from Lizard Monitoring Workshop

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Lizard found yesterday. A shame its eye isn’t visible, but patterning and body shape are clearly shown. The line on the back isn’t broken, and the body is quite wide, so probably an adult female

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Laying the felt refugia for monitoring

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Training session

Thanks to everyone who came to the training workshop yesterday. I’ve sent an email to everyone outlining monitoring plans. Looking forward to successful monitoring of what might be Cambridge’s largest lizard population.

For all resources about the monitoring go to Lizard Monitoring

Presentation by Steven Allain and Mark Goodman. How to monitor and identify Common Lizards

Click here to see the presentation from Saturday’s Lizard Monitoring Workshop

The presentation is in video format so you can watch and pause at your own pace.

Everyone is Going Loopy for Lizards

imageAs as well as coverage in Cambridge News, herpetologists Steven Allain and Mark Goodman of Cambridge and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group have been interviewed for Cambridge TV and BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Drive time

Hoping for sun and lots of lizards tomorrow 🙂