We seek individuals with passion for conservation and research in challenging conditions, and extensive mountain experience. Follow the link for a detailed job description and application instructions.
Over the past quarter century, we have documented dramatic, disease-driven declines of mountain yellow-legged frogs across California’s Sierra Nevada. Recently we have documented the beginning of their recovery. To study these declines and recovery in 2021, we will hire two field technicians for the summer field work. As part of our team, the technicians will primarily conduct frog population surveys, disease surveys, and translocations/reintroductions. Our study sites are lakes, ponds, and meadows across the remote, alpine Sierra Nevada landscape. We often backpack 10-20+ miles to reach study sites, and for 3-10 days we camp and work in all conditions. The field technicians spend the majority of the 2-3 month position working and living in the backcountry. Despite this challenging work environment, we are motivated by the positive impact that our research has on frog recovery.
Exciting news: we just pushed the Sierra Lakes Inventory Project data set to the Environmental Data Initiative data portal! Roland Knapp ran the SLIP project from 1995-2002 and collected data on >8,000 Sierra Nevada water bodies. We owe Claire Pavelka our gratitude for making this data publication a reality. Claire was a fellow with the Environmental Data Initiative summer data science fellowship program in 2020.
Citation: Knapp, R.A., C. Pavelka, E.E. Hegeman, and T.C. Smith. 2020. The Sierra Lakes Inventory Project: Non-Native fish and community composition of lakes and ponds in the Sierra Nevada, California ver 2. Environmental Data Initiative. https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/d835832d7fd00d9e4466e44eea87fab3
California’s mountain yellow-legged frogs are endangered. One reason is an ongoing wildlife pandemic (or, a panzootic). Worldwide, amphibians are threatened by a disease called chytridiomycosis, caused by the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. This disease has caused declines in frog and salamander species across six continents, including here in California. In a public seminar on Thursday 12 November 2020, our own Mountain Lakes Research Group Principal Investigator Tom Smith, PhD described some of the conservation tools that we study. Our goal is to help mountain yellow-legged frog populations persist in a landscape with widespread disease.
Our work on Bd mitigation and cooperation with California and U.S. wildlife agencies was recently described on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s blog, in a series on conservation in action. Thanks to Meghan Snow for the write-up, and to Jill Seymour, Isaac Chellman, and many others for their collaboration on this project. See the link below:
“What do frogs do in winter?” That is a question we hear frequently. Meters-thick ice covers high elevation Sierra Nevada lakes for about nine months of the year. For an animal that spends summer days lounging on rocks in the sun, winter imposes a radical shift in lifestyle. But historically, we could not document frog winter behavior through direct observation. Although scuba diving allows observation of some taxa, winter ice, elevation, and remoteness prevent us from diving in Sierra lakes.
Enter David Lang and his team, who developed the Trident underwater drone at OpenROV and Sofar Ocean Technologies. Over the past few years, our team used a Trident to search for frogs in a frozen lake. This technology allowed us to find frogs and tadpoles, and to capture video to document their overwintering behavior. David and some of his colleagues joined us at our study lake on two late winter expeditions and experienced our “eureka” moments in which we saw frogs and tadpoles as never before. Through the lens of the Trident and the VR goggles, we finally saw the frog’s eye view of life under the ice.
In his recent OneZero article, David describes how the Trident makes this project possible. More generally, he explores the potential for tech to enhance conservation projects. We are happy to see David’s story published, and honored that he focused on our project. Read his story here.
“Ranaviruses infect mountain yellow-legged frogs (Rana muscosa and Rana sierrae) threatened by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis” by Tom, Roland, and Angela Picco (United States Fish and Wildlife Service) appears in Herpetological Conservation and Biology. The paper (available here) documents the presence of a ranavirus in a small number of mountain yellow-legged frog populations. Despite causing occasional tadpole mortality events, ranaviruses play a small role in large scale mountain yellow-legged frog declines, especially when compared to the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis.
Read the new paper here. Published today in the journal Ecosphere, Tom, Roland, and Cherie Briggs (UC Santa Barbara) describe some of the ways in which mountain yellow-legged frog declines impact alpine lake communities. Contrary to expectations, the large scale loss of these frogs is not associated with secondary extinctions or changes in structure and composition of the benthic macroinvertebrate community, which contains most of the prey and competitor species for frogs and tadpoles. Notably, these results differ from 1) the consequences of frog declines in other ecosystems, and 2) the consequences of fish introductions in the Sierra. Although impacts of frog declines on the taxa examined in this study were small, mountain yellow-legged frog declines are associated with secondary declines in other species, like gartersnakes.