This proposal examines the genetic composition and demography of amphibians experiencing different stages of chytridiomycosis, an infectious disease caused by the amphibian-killing fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Chytridiomycosis has caused widespread declines and extinctions of amphibian populations in Central America. This project will identify the front of the epidemic wave in the Darien region of Panama, and directly compare populations before and after exposure to the pathogen. This study will measure variability in immunological genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) across populations and species of frogs with varying exposure to this disease, and combine these genetic findings with a population demographic analysis of declines and recovery. These data permit an understanding of the genetic and demographic factors contributing to this wildlife disease.
This project generates important data on the roles of genetic and demographic factors in immunity to an infectious disease that is a serious threat to New World amphibian biodiversity. Results of this project will be important in conservation efforts and allow researchers to take into account long-term maintenance of adaptive evolutionary potential in conservation research and captive breeding programs, detection of natural resistance, and management of captive stocks. The research results will be used in outreach through media and educational programs, to increase awareness of the use of science in biodiversity conservation. Finally, this project includes a significant training component that makes international research opportunities available to undergraduates, graduates, and post-docs, and makes special efforts to provide opportunities to under-represented students.