Our Research

Our team studies Australian frogs, their distributions and habitat use, their community and population dynamics, their ecology, their infection and disease dynamics, their biology, and their immunology. One of our main concerns is the dramatic declines and extinctions of frogs that have occurred concurrent with the emergence of the amphibian disease, chytridiomycosis.

Chytridiomycosis is an infectious skin disease of frogs caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). This fungal pathogen has been implicated in the decline or extinction of 202 amphibian species; approximately half those experiencing rapid declines globally. Frog populations around the world are continuing to decline, and some that survived initially fail to recover to their previous densities.

 

Chytridiomycosis is unprecedented in its ability to drive populations to extinction, and many species are now only secure in captivity. Additionally, the disease greatly increases the risk of extinction from other threatening processes such as habitat loss, climate change, toxins, introduced pests, and over-exploitation. Abating this crisis is one of the most urgent issues in conservation today.

Eradication of the fungus is impossible, and intensive control through targeted management strategies is essential to help small populations recover. Management techniques are currently limited to preventing spread of the disease, or removing frogs from the wild. While the value of captive breeding and release programs is controversial, they are currently the only effective tool for preventing extinction in declining species. Unfortunately, despite successful captive rearing, the disease is still present in the environment, and frogs still die when they are reintroduced to the wild.​

 

Funding

  • Australian Research Council Discovery Project DP180101415: "A novel modelling approach for understanding wildlife disease dynamics"

  • New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage Saving our Species Key Threatening Process Project: "The great leap forward; investigating recovery and resistance to amphibian chytrid fungus in an endangered frog from the World Heritage Rainforests of NSW"

  • Griffith University School of Environment and Science Research Support Scheme 2018: "Amphibians of the World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests: Distribution, habitat use, conservation status and potential threats"

  • Environmental Futures Research Institute Strategic Leverage Fund 2018: "Investigation of immune gene expression in the amphibian fungal skin disease, chytridiomycosis" (Laura Grogan)

  • Early Career Researcher Travel Grant 2018 (Laura Grogan)

  • Griffith University 2019 International Workshop Award: "Generalising amphibian disease models across species and international boundaries" (Hamish McCallum and Laura Grogan)

Alpine tree frog showing loss of righting reflex due to severe chytridiomycosis

Great barred frog (Mixophyes fasciolatus)

Alpine tree frog (Litoria verreauxii alpina)

  • Ecological Society of Australia Student Research Grant (Thais Sasso Lopes)

  • Griffith University New Researcher Grant 2019: "A metabolomic investigation of the amphibian fungal skin disease, chytridiomycosis" (Laura Grogan)

  • Queensland Frog Society 2019 Ric Nattrass Research Grant (Thais Sasso Lopes)

  • Ethel Mary Read Research Grant 2019, Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales (Thais Sasso Lopes)

  • Wildlife Disease Association - Australasian Section Research Award 2019: "Characterising the immune response to Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in larval stages of the endangered Fleay's barred frog" (Maria Puig Ribas)

  • Ecological Society of Australia Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment: "Bringing together mathematical modelling and eDNA to understand the recovery of an endangered frog affected by chytridiomycosis" (Thais Sasso Lopes)

  • Griffith University School of Environment and Science ENGAGE grant scheme 2019: "Impacts of fire-fighting chemicals on endangered frogs: Implications for conservation and management" (Clare Morrison, Chantal Lanctot, Dan Ferguson, Laura Grogan, David Newell, Hamish McCallum)

  • Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award DE200100490: "Understanding infection tolerance to improve management of wildlife disease" (Laura Grogan)

What we do

We use a variety of research techniques to understand more about our study subjects and the disease system, from field-based landscape-scale occupancy surveys, to population-scale capture-mark-recapture surveys, and to individual-scale studies of pathogenesis and immunology in the laboratory.

The purpose of our research is to investigate the factors that permit populations of various species that are affected by chytridiomycosis to persist (or even recover) in the face of endemic disease. 

 

You can find out more about what we do, and how we do it below. 

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© 2019 by The Frog Research Team