Across the globe, amphibians are declining at an alarming rate. Habitat loss, pollution, and climate change are major drivers of these declines, but amphibians also have to contend with chytridiomycosis, a disease caused by the amphibian-killing fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis [Bd]). The global spread of this fungus is most likely the result of anthropogenic movement, although regional patterns of spread are not completely understood. Our research contributes to understanding contemporary and historical dynamics of Bd.
Bacterial Symbiont Diversity
Actinomycete bacteria of the genus Frankia induce root nodule formation and fix nitrogen for non-leguminous host plants at rates comparable to legumes. Thus, this symbiosis performs important ecosystem services, especially in host plant colonization of nutrient deficient soils. The genetic diversity of strains inhabiting nodules has been well characterized, although diversity assessments of soil Frankia populations from which hosts can recruit symbionts are lacking. Our research aims to explore the genetic diversity of Frankia in soil using a targeted metagenomic approach via massively parallel Illumina sequencing.
Pathogen dynamics of Snake Fungal Disease
Nerodia harteri is a threatened small-bodied water snake endemic to Texas. It is closely associated with rivers and tributaries in the Brazos river basins. Snake Fungal Disease (SFD) has recently emerged as a threat to North American snakes and is caused by the fungus Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola (Oo), which infects the epidermis of snakes. The effects on susceptible snakes are striking and can include lesions on the body, head, and mouth that become necrotic and can impact a snake’s ability to feed. We are investigating the pathogen dynamics of Oo in N. harteri and its sympatric congeners.