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TESS Seminar - Impacts and management of chytridiomycosis in Australian amphibians

When Aug 16, 2017
from 04:00 PM to 05:00 PM
Where D3.054 Cairns, 145.030 Townsville
Contact Name
Contact Phone 07 4232 1427
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Dr Lee BergerLee Berger
James Cook University


The spread of chytridiomycosis, a fungal skin disease, has caused the decline and extinction of several hundred amphibian species globally. It arrived in Australia in 1978 near Brisbane and spread north and south, causing 6 extinctions in Queensland over the next 2 decades. Although it has now spread to almost all suitable habitat in Australia, most frogs have persisted. However, 37 Australian species have reduced distributions and/or abundance; 6 of these species are critically endangered and 11 are recovering. Recovery is related to higher recruitment rates, and evolution of resistance has not yet been demonstrated.  Since the fungus has an amazingly broad amphibian host range, resistant species may act as reservoirs. Currently there are no widely applicable methods to control the disease in the wild. Reducing risk of spread into naive areas is a high priority, but even in infected areas, control measures are important to prevent incursions of new strains. For endangered frog species, emergency measures are needed to increase population sizes through captive assurance colonies. As frogs do not appear to acquire resistance, vaccination is unlikely to be effective. Management ideas being trialed include habitat modification (such as increased salinity or decreasing shade), translocating frogs to habitats already unfavourable for Bd, selection for resistance, control of reservoir species, and anti-fungal treatments. 


Lee commenced her PhD at JCU and CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory in 1995 with the aim of determining the cause of the mysterious amphibian declines that were occurring in protected areas of Queensland.  She discovered chytridiomycosis, now recognised as the worst disease to impact biodiversity.  After a year at the National Wildlife Health Centre in Madison, US, she returned to JCU to continue research on this disease,  funded by an ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship and an ARC Future Fellowship.  Her work on chytridiomycosis has been diverse and involved pathogenesis, mapping, disease ecology, developing diagnosis, immunity and conservation management. Since 2017 she has been Associate Dean, Research for CPHMVS.

Centre for Tropical Environmental & Sustainability Sciences

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