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.

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.

New paper published in Ecosphere

A paper entitled “Disease and climate effects on individuals drive post-reintroduction population dynamics of an endangered amphibian” by Max and Roland was published in Ecosphere today. The accompanying UCSB story is available here. Although developed for mountain yellow-legged frogs, the hierarchical Bayesian hidden Markov model they developed might be applicable to other species impacted by the amphibian chytrid fungus. 

Frogs make an unexpected recovery

In this new video, UCSB videographer Spencer Bruttig talks to Roland during a visit to one of his Yosemite study sites and gets the latest on the outcome of frog conservation efforts there. Amazingly, despite all of the challenges the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog has faced during the past century, the frogs are making a remarkable comeback. Hear about this exciting turn of events from someone who witnessed the frogs’ decline and now the beginning of their recovery.

New study: frogs in Yosemite are recovering

A paper by Roland and colleagues was published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. The accompanying UCSB story is available here. The study shows that despite the ongoing presence of introduced fish and the amphibian chytrid fungus, Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs are recovering across Yosemite National Park. This recovery is occurring because some lakes have been restored to their original fishless condition, and frogs are developing increased resistance to fungal infection. These results suggest that some amphibians may be more resilient than is often assumed, and with appropriate management, declines of such species may be reversible. That is great news!