My research is focused around using the activities of amphibian skin secretions to explain discrepancies in resilience to infectious disease and predation at both individual and population level. I am particularly interested in factors which influence the compounds present, and hence the in-vitro activities, of amphibian skin secretions. These factors could include diet, environment or stress, and may contribute to the survival or decline of amphibians at a population level.
This research will be applied to ex-situ populations of amphibians held at the Panama Amphibian Research and Conservation project with an aim to increase the resilience of Bd susceptible animals prior to the reintroduction of these captive animals to the wild. My project is in collaboration with Dr Brian Gratwicke at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. I am co-supervised by Prof. Trent Garner (Institute of zoology), Prof. Alethea Tabor (University College London) and Prof. Matthew Fisher (Imperial College London).
My Tropical Forest Ecology (MRes) research project at Imperial College London was titled: Biotic and abiotic factors associated with the amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Ecuador. This was co-supervised by Prof. Matthew Fisher and Dr. Andrés Merino-Viteri (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador). We used Illumina Miseq barcoding as a molecular tool in a landscape-scale ecological study to establish relationships between both the prevalence of Bd and the structure of the skin mycobiome of Ecuadorian amphibians across the breeding modes, life stages and altitudes at which they occur. This identified important general trends in breeding behaviours and environmental preferences which predispose particular amphibian groups to infection by Bd.
Following my Masters, I held visiting researcher status in the lab group of Prof. Mat Fisher and continued the productive collaboration with Pontifica Universidad Católica del Ecuador initiated during my Masters. I was a leading member in a team which was awarded funding from the Mohammed bin Zayed Conservation Fund to assess the population health and Bd status of the critically endangered harlequin frog, Atelopus podocarpus, in southern Ecuador. The fieldwork phase was successful and the molecular lab work is still ongoing. Read more about the project here.