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Laura Brannelly


BSci, BA, MSci, PhD


ARC DECRA Research Fellow

Contact details

Address: TBA

Email: lbrannelly"at"

Research Overview and Current Projects

Laura’s is interested in the effects of the devastating disease chytridiomycosis, caused by the fungal pathogenBatrachochytrium dendrobatidis, Bd, on population persistence in amphibian species.  She is interested in how animals cope with and continue to persist in the face of devastating disease.  Her DECRA project at the University of Melbourne focuses on one mechanism of population persistence: increased reproductive effort.  Her current research is focused on investigating the effects that disease has on reproduction. She aims to use the knowledge from her field work and experiments to improve conservation efforts for amphibians.


Laura received her a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and Bachelor of Science in ecology and evolutionary biology from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2010. She went on to complete her Masters of Science in environmental biology from Tulane University in 2011 where she participated in a number of amphibian projects including clinical chemotherapy trials for treating Bd, studying non-amphibian hosts of the amphibian chytrid fungus, quantifying sub-lethal effects of disease, and determining best practice methods for marking amphibians.

Laura received her PhD at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland Australia in 2016. For her PhD research she explored the interactions between frogs, disease, and the management of critically endangered species. She explored pathogenesis of disease on understudied and endangered species, as well as determining mechanisms of population persistence. She hopes to be able to directly use the information generated from her research to further conservation efforts to protect Australia’s declining frog species.

Laura was a post doctoral research fellow from 2016-2018 at the University of Pittsburgh with Dr. Corinne Richards-Zawacki.  Her research there focused on the effects of climate change on amphibian species and communities, specifically investigating the effects of pond drying on the amphibian immune system and physiology.  She also explored disease dynamics in local amphibian populations through different sites and seasons in an effort to help predict impacts of disease on populations in the face of a changing environment.


amphibians, amphibian reproduction, amphibian chytrid fungus, chytridiomycosis, conservation, disease ecology, ecology, endangered species, frog, reproduction, and wildlife disease

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  • Brannelly L. A., McCallum H. I., Grogan L. F., Briggs C. J., Ribas M. P., Hollanders M., Sasso T., Familiar López M., Newell D. A. & Kilpatrick A. M. (early view) Mechanisms underlying host persistence following amphibian disease emergence determine appropriate management strategies. Ecology Letters (link) (IF 8.699). 


  • Brannelly LA, Wetzel DP, Richards-Zawacki CL. Optimized swab sample extraction results in imperfect detection of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis particularly when infection intensities are low. In review.

  • Brannelly LA, Wetzel DP, Ohmer MEB, Zimmerman L, Saenz V, Richards-Zawacki CL. Environmental DNA is an effective tool for detecting presence but not quantity of an amphibian pathogen in water samples using an optimized extraction method. In Review.

  • Brannelly LA*, Ohmer MEB*, Saenz V, Richards-Zawacki CL. Effects of a shortened hydroperiod on larval development and post-metamorphic immune defenses in a temperate amphibian. In Review. *authors contributed equally.

  • Brannelly LA, Ohmer MEB, Richards-Zawacki CL. A comparison of artificial reproduction methods in the frog Rana pipiens. In Review.

  • Claytor SC, Gummer JPA, Grogan LF, Skerratt LF, Webb RJ, Brannelly LA, Berger L, Roberts AA. Susceptibility of frogs to chytridiomycosis correlates with increased levels of immunomodulatory serotonin in the skin. In Review.

  • Brannelly LA, Scheele BC, Grogan LF. Chapter 39: Disease and the endangered alpine tree frog: bridging research, conservation and management. Strategies for Conservation Success in Herpetology (ed. Walls SC, O’Donnell KM). Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Herpetological Conservation Series, Vol 4. In Press.

  • Kohli A, Brannelly LA, Ohmer MEB, Lindauer A, Richards-Zawacki CL, Rollins-Smith L, Voyles J. 2019. Disease and the drying pond: examining possible links between drought, immune function, and disease development in amphibians. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. Accepted Jan 2019.

  • Roberts AA, Robertson S, Webb RJ, Kosch TA, Glass B, Motti C, Berger L. Brannelly LA 2019. The efficacy and pharmacokinetics of terbinafine against the frog-killing fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). Medical Mycology. 57:204-214.


  • Bower DS, Brannelly LA, McDonald CA, Webb RJ, Greenspan SE, Vickers M, Gardner MG, Greenlees MJ. 2018. A review of the role of parasites in the ecology of reptiles and amphibians. Austral Ecology. Doi: 10.1111/aec/12695

  • Kosch TA, Silva CNS, Brannelly LA, Roberts AA, Quintin L, Berger L, Skerratt LF. Genetic potential for disease resistance in critically endangered frog decimated by chytridiomycosis. Animal Conservation, doi: 10.1111/acv.12459.

  • Brannelly LA, Chatfield MWH, Sonn J, Robak M, Richards-Zawacki CL. Fungal infection has sublethal effects in a lowland subtropical amphibian population. BMC Ecology, 18:34.

  • Brannelly LA, Martin G, Llwelyn J, Skerratt LF, Berger L. 2018. Age and size dependent susceptibility to chytridiomycosis in the invasive cane toad (Rhinella marina). Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. 131(2):107-120.

  • Brannelly LA, Roberts AA, Skerratt LF, Berger L. 2018. Terminal transferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labelling (TUNEL) and caspase 3/7 assays to determine epidermal cell death in frogs with chytridiomycosis. Journal of Visualized Experiments. 135:e57345.

  • Brannelly LA, Clemann N, Skerratt LF, Webb RJ, Berger L, Scheele BC. 2018. Investigating community disease dynamics can lead to more effective conservation efforts. Animal Conservation. 21:108-109.

  • Brannelly LA, Webb RJ, Hunter DA, Clemann N, Howard K, Skerratt LF, Berger L, Scheele BC. 2018. Non-declining amphibians can be important reservoir hosts for amphibian chytrid fungus. Animal Conservation, 21: 91-101. Feature Paper.


  • Brannelly LA, Roberts AA, Skerratt LF, Berger L. 2017. Epidermal cell death in frogs with chytridiomycosis. Peer J. 5:e2925.

  • Scheele BC, Skerratt LF, Grogan LF, Hunter DA, Clemann N, McFadden M, Newell D, Hoskin CJ, Gillespie GR, Heard GW, Brannelly LA, Roberts AA, Berger L. 2017. After the epidemic: ongoing declines, stabilizations and recoveries in amphibians afflicted by chytridiomycosis. Biological Conservation. 206:37-46.

  • Scheele BC, Hunter DA, Brannelly LA, Skerratt LF, Driscoll DA. 2017. Reservoir‐host amplification of disease impact in an endangered amphibian. Conservation Biology. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12830.

  • Kosch TA, Eimes JA, Didinger C, Brannelly LA, Waldman B, Berger L, Skerratt LF. 2017. Characterization of MHC class IA in the endangered southern corroboree frog. Immunogenetics. Doi: 10.1007/s00251-016-0965-3.


  • Brannelly LA, Hunter DA, Skerratt LF, Scheele BC, Lenger D, McFadden MS, Harlow PS, Berger L. 2016. Chytrid infection and post-release fitness in the reintroduction of an endangered alpine tree frog. Animal Conservation. 19(2):153-162

  • Skerratt LF, Berger L, Clemann N, Hines HB, Hunter DA, Marantelli G, McFadden M, Newell DA, Philips A, Scheele BC, Brannelly LA, Speare R, Versteegen S, Cashins SD, West M. 2016. Priorities for management of chytridiomycosis in Australia: saving frogs from extinction. Wildlife Research. 43(2) 105-120

  • Brannelly LA, Webb R, Skerratt LF, Berger L. 2016. Amphibian with infectious disease increase their reproductive effort: evidence for the terminal investment hypothesis. Open Biology. 6(6): 150251.

  • Brannelly LA, Webb R, Skerratt LF, Berger L. 2016. Effects of chytridiomycosis on hematopoietic tissue in the spleen, kidney and bone marrow varies between three diverse amphibian species. Pathogens and Disease. 74(7): ftw069.


  • Scheele BC, Hunter DA, Skerratt LF, Brannelly LA, Driscoll DA. 2015. Low impact of chytridiomycosis on frog recruitment enables persistence in refuges despite high adult mortality. Biological Conservation. 182:36–43.

  • Brannelly LA, McMahon TA, Hinton M, Lenger D, Richards-Zawacki CL. 2015. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in natural and farmed Louisiana crayfish populations: prevalence and implications. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. 112:220-235.

  • Bataille A, Cashins S, Grogan LF, Skerratt LF, Hunter DA, McFadden M, Scheele BC, Brannelly LA, Macris A, Harlow P, Bell S, Berger L, Waldman B. 2015. Susceptibility of amphibians to chytridiomycosis is associated with MHC class II conformation. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 282:20143127.

  • Brannelly LA, Berger L, Marrantelli G, Skerratt LF. 2015. Low humidity is a failed treatment option for chytridiomycosis in the critically endangered southern corroboree frog. Wildlife Research. 42:44-49.

  • Brannelly LA, Skerratt LF, Berger L. 2015 Treatment trial of clinically ill corroboree frogs with chytridiomycosis with two triazole antifungals and electrolyte therapy. Veterinary Research and Communication 39:179-187.

  • Brannelly LA, Hunter DA, Lenger D, Scheele BC, Skerratt LF, Berger L. 2015. Dynamics of chytridiomycosis during the breeding season in an Australian alpine amphibian. PloS ONE 10(12):e0143629.


  • Brannelly LA. 2014. Reduced itraconazole concentration and durations are successful in treating Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis infection in amphibians. Journal of Visualized Experiments. 85:e51166.

  • Brannelly LA, Berger L, Skerratt LS. 2014. Comparison of three widely used marking techniques for adult anuran species Litoria verreauxii alpina. Herpetological Conservation and Biology.  9(2): 428-435.


  • Chatfield MWH, Brannelly LA, Robak MJ, Freeborn L, Lailvaux SP, Richards-Zawacki CL. 2013. Sublethal fitness consequences of infection by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis on Northern Leopard Frogs (Lithobates pipiens). EcoHealth, 10; 90-98.

  • Brannelly LA, Chatfield MWH, Richards-Zawacki CL. (2013) Visual implant elastomer tags are an unreliable method of identification in adult anurans. Herpetological Journal, 23(3); 125-129.


  • Brannelly LA, Chatfield MWH, Richards-Zawacki CL. 2012. Field and laboratory studies of the susceptibility of the green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) to Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis infection. PLoS ONE 7(6): e38473.

  • Brannelly LA. Richards-Zawacki CL. Pessier AP. 2012. Clinical trials with itraconazole as a treatment for chytrid fungal infections in amphibians. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms.  101: 95-104.

  • McMahon TA, Brannelly LA, Chatfield WHC, Johnson PTJ, Joseph MB, McKenzie VJ, Richards-Zawacki CL, Venesky MD, Rohr JR. 2012. The chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis has non-amphibian hosts and releases chemicals that cause pathology in the absence of infection. PNAS, 110; 210-215.

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