Science and conservation together: why frog reintroductions work

After an 18 year study on reestablishing mountain yellow-legged frogs in the Sierra Nevada, we are proud to share a success story in amphibian conservation (covered by New Scientist [PDF]). The key to our success? Frog evolution and two decades of collaboration among academic, non-profit, and agency scientists.

frog leaps into water
photo credit: Sara Dykman 2022

Mountain yellow-legged (MYL) frogs are endangered due to (1) the introduction of non-native trout into their largely fishless habitat, and (2) the invasion of the novel amphibian fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) in the Sierra. While trout can be removed from some MYL frog habitats, resulting in rapid recovery of frog populations, Bd cannot be removed from the landscape. As such, MYL frogs must overcome the pressures of this pathogen to recover.

Although most MYL frog populations experience local extinction after a Bd outbreak, some populations persist despite ongoing Bd infections. Frogs in these populations show increased resistance to Bd (i.e. the ability to limit the severity of Bd infection). In a new study, we show that a) this resistance is the result of evolution in frogs, and b) we can leverage this evolution of resistance to Bd to recover MYL frogs through reintroductions. By reintroducing resistant frogs into habitats they formerly occupied, we can reestablish MYL frogs in the presence of Bd across their historical range. Armed with this powerful recovery tool, we will require multi-agency collaboration, patience, and adequate funding to continue reestablishing MYL frogs throughout the Sierra.

Apply to work as a 2024 Summer Field Technician

Over the past quarter century, we have documented dramatic, disease-driven declines of mountain yellow-legged frogs across California’s Sierra Nevada. But we have also documented the beginning of their recovery in recent years. In 2024, we will hire up to four field technicians to conduct capture-mark-recapture surveys, collect diagnostic disease samples, and assist with translocations and reintroductions of mountain yellow-legged frogs throughout the Sierra Nevada. These technicians will be critical to sustaining our long-term research of frog declines and recovery in 2024.

We seek individuals who have both extensive mountain experience and a passion for conservation and research. Follow the link below for a detailed job description and application instructions. Applications due January 12, 2024.

2024 Summer Field Technician Job Advertisement – Mountain Lakes Research Group

PC: Sara Dykman

NSF-funded Biology Integration Institute to study amphibian resilience to disease

We are excited to be team members of a newly-funded National Science Foundation Biology Integration Institute called RIBBiTR (Resilience Institute Bridging Biological Training and Research). Working with a large and collaborative team of scientists and educators located around the country and conducting research around the globe, we will work toward uncovering mechanisms of amphibian resilience to infectious disease and global change. Read more on the RIBBiTR website and from The Current at UC Santa Barbara.

2021 Newsletter

Check out our 2021 field season accomplishments in our annual newsletter. In addition to summarizing our recovery activities, we also provide an in depth description of what a mountain yellow-legged frog reintroduction entails. In short, it takes a village. Read on in the newsletter to learn how we fund mountain-yellow legged frog recovery, and how you can help (like donating your used smartphone!). A big thank you to our hard-working technicians, the staff at UC Santa Barbara Earth Research Institute and the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab, and all of our partners in frog conservation for a successful season.

Technician John Imperato reintroduces adult frogs into a basin in Kings Canyon National Park. PC: Tom Smith.

Happy Giving Tuesday, donate your unused smartphone!

Instead of sitting forgotten in a desk drawer, your old smartphone could play a critical role in endangered species recovery and mountain lakes research. The Mountain Lakes Research Group uses smartphones for recording data in the field. Compared to entering data on paper, entering data in smartphones increases efficiency and reduces errors, saving us time and money. Our current smartphones are still chugging along, but we are in need of updating and growing our fleet. Read instructions here to see if your old smartphone could be eligible for donation (spoiler alert, it probably is).

Checking her email? Nope. Field technician Kira Miller starts her data entry for a mountain yellow-legged frog survey at an alpine lake in Kings Canyon National Park. PC: Alexa Lindauer

2020 Annual Newsletter

Read up on highlights from the field season and critical results from a long-term frog recovery project in our annual newsletter. Also learn how we fund mountain-yellow legged frog recovery, and how you can help. 2020 has been quite the year, and we send a big thank you to our partners who helped make our work possible during the COVID-19 pandemic and an historic wildfire season.