Advancing ARMI: In Search for Chytrid Fungus

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Detailed Description

In this episode, we follow a group of students from the Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School on a class trip to Pintail Marsh at the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge. There they join USGS ecologist Tara Chestnut to investigate and sample for the amphibian chytrid fungus. Join us, as we explore how research and wonder can bring greater light to this potentially fatal fungus, only in this episode of the USGS Oregon Science Podcast.


Episode Number: 177

Date Taken:

Length: 00:06:54

Location Taken: Salem, OR, US


[Intro Music begins: Basson, Hall of the Mountain

Kings, Classical One and Only]

OPENING CREDITS: “What I’m studying is

an amphibian disease called ‘amphibian chytrid


“Where do you go to school?”

“JGEMS, the Jane Goodall Environmental Middle


“Their populations are declining and they’re

at risk.”

“And where do you go to school, Brody?”

“The Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School.”

“So what’s your favorite species so far?”

“Northwestern Salamanders” “Where do

you go to school?”

“JGEMS, Jane Goodall Environmental Middle


“And then we are going to check traps that

I set out that will hopefully have some amphibians

in it” “Where do you go to school?”

“JGEMS, the Jane Goodall Environmental Middle


[Tara Chestnut] We are at Pintail Marsh at

Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge.

And, we were introduced to the student researchers

from Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School.

[Keara Gann] Today, we were working with Tara

Chestnut and we found some long-toed salamanders,

rough-skinned newts, and a tree frog.

[Nick] We’re surveying and studying for

amphibians because every year the 8th graders

go on research trips.

[Brody] So, I thought it would be fun to do

a research project on them since I have seen

a lot of amphibians.

And I just thought I would like to learn more

about them.

[Brandon] It was amphibians out of several

other groups of animals and I just thought

amphibians would be more interesting since

they could be on the land and water, unlike

many other species.

[Background Music: Bassoon, Concerto in A

Minor, Classical One and Only]

[Tara Chestnut] What we could do is bring

all the traps back here so I can…so we can

just record what’s in them and let the animals

go, if there are any.

[Keara Gann] This group is studying the difference

in abundance and diversity of pond-breeding


And, so, they’re looking specifically at

ephemeral ponds and permanent, year-round


[Tara Chestnut] Any amphibians?

[JGEMS Students] Look, a little frog!

You have a frog and a newt.


Two in one.

[Tara Chestnut] Today, one of the goals was

to sample breeding amphibians for the amphibian

chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis.

And we set out aquatic funnel traps, and also

used dip nets to try and capture amphibians.

And, we are sampling them for the chytrid

fungus using non-evasive swab techniques.

So, we’ll collect a skin sample, not unlike

a sample you might have collected from your

cheek if you have strep throat.

And, then we take those swabs back to the

lab and do a DNA extraction and we can actually

determine whether or not the amphibian chytrid

fungus is on or in the amphibian and also

how much of it is there.

[Background Music: Pledgling :30, Fresh Music

Library, Acoustic Guitar Moods Vol. 2]

[Tara Chestnut] Everyone measure the animals


Have you ever heard in woodworking, “measure

twice, cut once.”


Same rule.

You just double check your work.

Does anyone remember the name of the reflex

they have to show other animals that you shouldn’t

eat newts?

It’s called the unken reflex.

[Tara Chestnut] One of the goals of this research

is to better understand the ecology of the

amphibian chytrid fungus in amphibian habitats.

So, that we can better inform amphibian conservation.

We’re looking at aspects of the water quality

to try and understand if the temperature,

pH, nutrients, carbon, or the turbidity in

the water influence the density or presence

of amphibian chytrid fungus in amphibian habitat.

[Keara Gann] Typical JGEMS field trip.

Beautiful weather…no, it’s obviously raining,

but it’s been great.

I think the kids really like coming out and

maybe not getting soaking wet.

But the experience is good.

Gives them character.

[Background Music: Clue :30, Fresh Music Library,

Acoustic Guitar Moods Vol. 2]

[Tara Chestnut] The amphibian breeding season

is…it indicates the arrival of spring.

And that’s a pretty exciting thing.

With the amphibians croaking and with the

long-toed salamanders…and things like that,

it means that spring’s here.

And that’s pretty exciting!

[Brody] I think it’s fun to try to find

them cause they’re not easy to find.

So you kind of have to hunt for them.

[Tristan] Well, I like it because just the

joy of amphibians really.

They’re really neat to look at and to hold

and to study.

[Brandon] Yeah, before I came into this group

and started doing the research I basically

knew nothing about amphibians.

Now I know what they eat, where they live,

the scientific names, a lot of stuff.

[Background Music: It’s Not Over Yet :30,

Fresh Music Library, Acoustic Guitar Moods

Vol. 2]

[Tara Chestnut] Yeah, I think this work…it’s

exciting to me on a number of fronts.

It’s exciting to me because we are doing

truly novel research that will help with amphibian

conservation not just at this site, on this

national wildlife refuge, or in this region,

but may potentially help amphibians worldwide.