Two new papers published!

One paper (Jani et al. 2021) describes how infection of mountain yellow-legged frogs by the amphibian chytrid fungus causes long-term changes to the community of bacteria inhabiting the frogs’ skin (“microbiome”). Given the myriad roles played by the microbiome, including those related to immunity, changes to its structure could have additional impacts on frogs. The second paper (Joseph and Knapp 2021) shows how using the results of visual encounter surveys in analysis of mark-recapture data can improve estimates of population size. Links to the full text of both papers is available on the Publications page.

Positions Available: 2021 Seasonal Field Technicians

Field work in the Sierra Nevada: A researcher collects a skin swab sample from an endangered frog.
A researcher collects a skin swab sample from an endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog for disease diagnostics.

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.

https://mountainlakesresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/JobDescription_2021.pdf

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.

New publication: Sierra Lakes Inventory Project data.

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.

Link to the dataset here.

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

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.

Mountain yellow-legged frog restoration amid a wildlife pandemic.

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.

The recorded seminar is available to watch:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRKf_rnxbSEvv_dp5lZtPBQ

This seminar was part of the UC Santa Barbara Natural Reserve System seminar series. Our research group is based out of the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory, which is part of the Natural Reserve System.

Researchers and agencies work together to stop Bd epizootics in wild mountain yellow-legged frog populations.

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:

https://medium.com/conservation-service-in-action/fighting-chytrid-how-do-biologists-fight-pandemics-in-the-animal-kingdom-675a5dc99af2

Frogs released after treatment.
Mountain yellow-legged frogs are released into pens after a round of antifungal treatment to reduce infections with the amphibian chytrid fungus. credit: Roland Knapp.

Technology aids conservation: Observing frog behavior in frozen lakes using ROVs.

“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.