Understanding how a pathogen emerges in the environment and affects amphibian embryos

Associate Professor of Biology Justin Touchon

Green frog

The goal of this research is to 1) monitor the prevalence and abundance of Saprolegnia in ponds on the VFEP, and how this changes with temperature and abiotic environmental variables (salinity, dissolved oxygen, etc.) over time, and 2) study the carryover effects of predator and pathogen induced developmental plasticity on various temperate amphibian species. We are also interested in how Saprolegnia affects and is affected by different members of the aquatic community beyond tadpoles, such as snails or other invertebrates. We place small bags of sterilized hemp seeds into ponds to collect and culture Saprolegnia, a pathogen which naturally infects amphibian and fish embryos. We collect frog eggs and snails from the ponds to conduct short term experiments exposing them to lab cultured Saprolegnia.