Mitigating the effects of climate change, emerging disease, and invasive species on native amphibian populations in the UK

CASE award with the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (PUSCHENDORF_P19ARIES)

Mitigating the effects of climate change, emerging disease, and invasive species on native amphibian populations in the UK

CASE award with the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (PUSCHENDORF_P19ARIES)

Project Description


Dr Robert Puschendorf (University of Plymouth)

Prof Trent Garner (Institute of Zoology, ZSL)

Dr John Wilkinson (ARC Trust)

Dr Manuela Truebano (University of Plymouth)

Dr Rich Billington (University of Plymouth)

Amphibians are the most threatened group of vertebrates, with global declines driven by and associated with emerging infectious disease, invasive species and climate change (North et al. 2015; O’Hanlon et al. 2018; Pounds et al. 2006). Two emerging infectious diseases severely impacting amphibian populations are chytridiomycosis, caused by a novel lineage of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd; O’Hanlon et al. 2018), and ranavirosis, caused by a group of viruses from the Iridoviridae family (Price et al. 2014). To mitigate emerging disease-driven amphibian declines, we need to understand host-pathogen interactions.

Key to pathogen success are reservoir hosts which serve as a pathogen source, but do not develop any signs of the diseases (Garner 2018). These reservoir hosts are a consistent source of the infective stage of pathogens when the susceptible amphibian host populations decline and are pushed towards extinction; in many cases these reservoir hosts are invasive amphibian species.

Wales has an ideal amphibian system to study these host-pathogen interactions, with both native, declining populations of amphibians as well as newly discovered smooth and alpine newts, which are an invasive species to the area. Climate change has already affected ranavirus disease dynamics in wild frogs, but it is currently unknown how future changes will affect disease dynamics in other hosts, or how amphibian community composition will impact outcomes (Price et al. 2018).

We seek a candidate who is self-motivated and interested in developing analytical skills in ecology, immunity, spatial epidemiology, climate modelling and experimental biology. You will become part of a team of researchers based at four UK universities with the ultimate aim of developing conservation strategies to effectively conserve the endemic amphibian fauna through climate change and emerging disease. Indirectly, the student will work with researchers at ZSL, UCL, Imperial College, Queen Mary University of London, Liverpool University and the University of Kent’s Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology, who are embedded in a larger project on amphibian declines and emerging disease.

The successful candidate should have scientific ability and motivation to do the best possible quantitative research in the field as well as in the laboratory.


  • Pounds, J. A., Bustamante, M. R. Coloma, L. A., Consuegra, J. A., Fogden, M. P. L. Foster, P. N. La Marca, E., Masters, K. L., Merino-Viteri, A., Puschendorf, R., Santiago R., Sanchez-Azofeifa, G. A., Still, C. J., Young, B. E. (2006). Widespread amphibian extinctions from epidemic disease driven by global warming. Nature 439(7073): 161-167.
  • North, A.C., Hodgson, D.J., Price, S.J., Griffiths, A.G.F., 2015. Anthropogenic and Ecological Drivers of Amphibian Disease (Ranavirosis). PLoS ONE 10, e0127037.
  • O’Hanlon, S.J., Rieux, A., Farrer, R.A., Rosa, G.M., Waldman, B., Bataille, A., Kosch, T.A., Murray, K.A., Brankovics, B., Fumagalli, M., Martin, M.D., Wales, N., Alvarado-Rybak, M., Bates, K.A., Berger, L., Böll, S., Brookes, L., Clare, F., Courtois, E.A., Cunningham, A.A., Doherty-Bone, T.M., Ghosh, P., Gower, D.J., Hintz, W.E., Höglund, J., Jenkinson, T.S., Lin, C.-F., Laurila, A., Loyau, A., Martel, A., Meurling, S., Miaud, C., Minting, P., Pasmans, F., Schmeller, D.S., Schmidt, B.R., Shelton, J.M.G., Skerratt, L.F., Smith, F., Soto-Azat, C., Spagnoletti, M., Tessa, G., Toledo, L.F., Valenzuela-Sánchez, A., Verster, R., Vörös, J., Webb, R.J., Wierzbicki, C., Wombwell, E., Zamudio, K.R., Aanensen, D.M., James, T.Y., Gilbert, M.T.P., Weldon, C., Bosch, J., Balloux, F., Garner, T.W.J., Fisher, M.C., 2018. Recent Asian origin of chytrid fungi causing global amphibian declines. Science 360, 621-627.
  • Price, S J., Garner, T , Nichols W.J., Richard A., Balloux, F., Ayres, C., Mora-Cabello de Alba, A., Bosch, J., 2014. Collapse of Amphibian Communities Due to an Introduced Ranavirus. Current Biology 24, 2586-2591.
  • Canessa, S., Bozzuto, C., Campbell Grant, E.H., Cruickshank, S.S., Fisher, M.C., Koella, J.C., Lötters, S., Martel, A., Pasmans, F., Scheele, B.C., Spitzen-van der Sluijs, A., Steinfartz, S., Schmidt, B.R., 2018. Decision-making for mitigating wildlife diseases: From theory to practice for an emerging fungal pathogen of amphibians. Journal of Applied Ecology 55, 1987-1996.

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