Dr. Samuel Dunn, academic dean and vice president for academic affiairs, is pleased to announce the awarding of a $54,500 M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust grant, the largest award given by Murdock in this round, for biology research. Biology Professor Dr. John Cossel, Jr. wrote the grant for the proposed research of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrabatidis (Bd), which has been implicated as a major cause of amphibian declines and extinctions worldwide.
According Dr. Cossel, amphibians around the world are in trouble and a recent global survey found that 32.5% of all amphibians are threatened. In the past few decades, more than 100 amphibian species have gone extinct.
Adjusted for size, Costa Rica has the greatest amphibian richness on the planet; therefore, research is being done in that country. Dr. Cossel indicated that although researchers have surveyed amphibians there in the past to ascertain species affected, much of the work has neglected the cloud forest canopy amphibians due to difficulties accessing the canopy.
As part of a pilot study, during the summer of 2009 Cossel surveyed the area in and around Monteverde, Costa Rica, to determine its suitability for research and to establish a collaborative relationship with the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Tropical Science Center director and resident biologist. Due to the Murdock grant, Cossel will return to the site for five weeks this summer with two students, Courtney Corbin, Boise, Idaho, and Kyle Luthman, Nampa, Idaho, to address one of the major questions that pertains to the ability of the fungus
to live separately from an amphibian host.
Their specific objectives are to: 1) quantify Bd zoospore loads in arboreal and terrestrial water sources; and, 2) quantify Bd zoospore loads on both arboreal and terrestrial amphibians at the study site. This data will allow the researchers to test the hypothesis that canopy amphibians and water sources may be serving as pathogen reservoirs for Bd. The researchers will use climbing harnesses and doubled rope techniques to gain access to canopy bromeliads and amphibians.
For more information, contact Dr. John Cossel at JOCossel@NNU.Edu.
PHOTO CAPTION: Professor John Cossel in cloud forest research.