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Brown Bags- More Than Just Lunch

March 2, 2013

UNM hosts a scientific talk at least once a week called a “brown bag”, everyone is invited to listen to the speaker and free lunch is given. Most speakers are masters and Ph.D students who are required to present to obtain their degrees. However, the talk on Friday 2/22/2013 was by Valerie J. McKenzie an assistant professor at CU Boulder. Her presentation was titled “Wildlife Disease: From the Landscape Scale to the Microbial Scale”. I am going to use this week’s blog post to summarize the amazing work that she is doing, and to hopefully convince my readers to check out the weekly brown bag seminars.

Ms. McKenzie began the talk by looking at a graph of wildlife disease and its immense increase within the past 50 years. She then mentioned that she believed this increase was due to pathogen pollution, habitat change, conservation efforts, biodiversity loss, bio geography/ climate.
She began this project because she was curious whether wildlife infections were increasing in the same patterns that EIDs (environmental infecting diseases) are effecting humans. She found that there have been over 680 recorded wildlife EID events over the past 100 years with a massive increase in the 1980s in 54 countries. One third of the infections are in birds whereas the other two thirds are split between fish mammals and amphibians with a very small section dedicated to reptiles.
Because amphibians are currently the most threatened of the vertebrates, she focused the rest of her talk on the rapidly spreading Chytrid fungus in amphibians. She and her lab did a resurvey of 196 historical sites hosting Leopard Frogs in Colorado as well as an extra 270 sites. She found that the North West section of Colorado had Leopard Frogs at about 50% of the historical sites whereas South East had them in only 28% of the sites and North East had only 2% of the sites still containing Leopard Frogs.
She found that bullfrogs were a Chytrid host at the landscape scale, areas where Bull Frogs had invaded and left no Leopard Frogs had a 100% Chytrid occurrence. Where the two frogs co occurred she found a 90% Chytrid occurrence. And where there were only native frogs there was a 46% Chytrid occurrence.
She became curious, do different species of amphibians have unique microbial communities? She collected larval stages of amphibians because they were born and raised in one pond, she washed and sterilized them and found 18 different bacterial phyla living on the frog skin, more than that she found that different species do have different bio communities living on them and that bio community is a significant predictor of frog species.
The relative abundance of Chytrid inhibitory bacteria significantly increases for the two tolerant hosts, one of which being bull frogs. This lead her to wonder if she could transfer the bacteria to save the frogs using a pro biotic bath treatment, an experiment she will soon try.

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One Comment
  1. Hey Hailey! These Brown Bag Lunches sound pretty new. Is the luncheon open to all UNM students? McKenzie’s research on EIDs sounds pretty cool! Glad you got to learn about that. 🙂

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