PhD title: Mitigating the effects of climate change, emerging disease and invasive species on native amphibian populations in the UK
Amphibians face a myriad of synergistic threats and are amongst the most endangered vertebrates on the planet (IUCN 2017). Two emerging infectious diseases impacting amphibian populations are chytridiomycosis, caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd; O’Hanlon et al. 2018), and ranavirosis, caused by large, double-stranded DNA viruses from the family Iridoviridae (Chinchar 2002). Climate change is expected to promote the emergence of Bd in temperate zones (Xie et al. 2016) and has already impacted ranavirus disease dynamics in wild frogs (Price et al. 2019). However, both pathogens have low host specificity (Price et al. 2014, Scheele et al. 2019) and it is currently unknown how future changes in climate will affect disease dynamics across whole pond communities.
An understanding of host-pathogen interactions is critical to mitigating disease-driven amphibian declines. Reservoir hosts, for example, can act as a pathogen source, without developing any signs of disease. A known Bd host in the UK includes the non-native alpine newt (Cunningham & Minting 2008), which has become established in a number of locations across the UK (NBN 2017).
This project will utilise a field system in Wales, UK, which has both native, declining populations of amphibians as well as newly discovered smooth and alpine newts, which are non-native to the area. By combining field, experimental and modelling approaches, this project aims to elucidate the impacts of these threats on native amphibians, whilst suggesting useful approaches for conservation practitioners. Decision analysis is increasingly being applied to wildlife disease mitigation (Gerber et al. 2017, Canessa et al. 2018) and will provide an objective way of determining the most appropriate management techniques for population persistence in light of the impacts quantified throughout.
North AC, Hodgson DJ, Price SJ, Griffiths AGF (2015). Anthropogenic and ecological drivers of amphibian disease (Ranavirosis). PLOS ONE. 10(6):e0127037
Novosolov M, Rodda G, North A, Butchart S, Meiri S. (2017) The species abundance-distribution relationship revisited. Global Ecology and Biogeography. 2017;1–10
North AC (2015) Garden management could help reduce amphibian disease: citizen science in the UK. FrogLog. 23: 36
BirdLife International & National Audubon Society (2015) What birds tell us about threats from climate change and solutions for nature and people. Cambridge, UK and Washington DC, USA: BirdLife International, National Audubon Society.
Hedgehog Street (2019) Hedgehog Ecology & Land Management. People's Trust for Endangered Species, British Hedgehog Preservation Society
OPAL, University of Exeter, 2012-2013, £3000: ‘Magic Moths’ macro-moth monitoring and engagement project
Poster: North A.C & Bullion S (2019) Going the whole hog – A community approach to hedgehog conservation. Eighth European Hedgehog Research Group workshop
Poster: North A. C (2013) Investigating possible impacts of artificial lighting on small mammals. Mammal Society Student Conference
Awards and Prizes
- Daniel Palmer Award (2013) for contribution to the student experience – Falmouth Exeter Student Union
- Scientific Poster Award (2013) “Investigating possible impacts of artificial lighting on small mammals” – Mammal Society Student Conference
- Distinction Scholarship for Postgraduate Study (2013) – University of Exeter
Outreach and public engagement
- Delivered and evaluated a 2.5 year project funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and British Hedgehog Preservation Society with a focus on hedgehog conservation and research in an urban environment (2016-2019)
- Awareness raising for hedgehog conservation/research outcomes through interviews for local and national media eg radio, print, TV.
- Co-organised a Nature Summit to engage a wide audience in conservation action, campaigning and politics (2019).
- Delivered a one year macro-moth monitoring and public engagement project in Cornwall (2012).
- Led on the creation of activity booklets for young people to learn about science and conservation eg Chough Stuff, Hog Spotter (2014/2018).
- President of University of Exeter Ecological Society (2012/2013)
- Research Internship for Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Species Research Unit (2015)
- Communications Officer for Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Amphibian & Reptile Group (CPARG) (2016)
- Toad patrol volunteer (2016-2019)
- Delivered the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and British Hedgehog Preservation Society one day ‘Hedgehog Ecology & Management for Practitioners’ course (2017 – 2019).
- Created and delivered ‘Hedgehog ecology & survey’ workshop for University of Suffolk first year students (2019)