PARC Disease Task Team
Disease Task Team
PARC has formed a Disease Task Team to facilitate and guide communication on herpetofaunal diseases
PARC National Disease Task Team
Mission and Objectives
The North American landscape has undergone unprecedented change in the last 100 years, and many environments no longer resemble the ecosystems where species evolved. In some cases, these changes have created ideal conditions for the emergence of infectious diseases. Herpetofauna are among the most imperiled vertebrate taxa, and pathogens are playing a role in their decline. In the past 15 years, widespread epidemics have been observed, such as those associated with Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (a type of chytrid fungus) and ranavirus. Recently, Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola (Snake Fungal Disease) in the eastern USA and a new species of chytrid fungus in Europe (B. salamandrivorans) emerged. Undoubtedly, humans are playing a role in the emergence of herpetofaunal pathogens, whether through altering environmental conditions or translocating pathogens over large geographical distances, where they function as novel disease agents. Conserving the health of herpetofaunal populations is fundamental to conserving the integrity and biodiversity of ecosystems.
Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) have long recognized the importance of disease, with several PARC regions having Disease Task Teams. Responding to disease emergence often requires collaboration among government agencies, non-government organizations, universities, and the public, which can extend beyond PARC regions. Thus, PARC formed the National Disease Task Team to:
Facilitate and guide communication and collaboration on herpetofaunal diseases among PARC regions, federal and state agencies, and partners
The objectives of the PARC National Disease Task Team are to:
1) Identify issues and concerns related to herpetofaunal disease in North America;
2) Coordinate the development of outreach products on herpetofaunal diseases;
3) Provide a centralized online location where outreach products on herpetofaunal diseases are available; and
4) Facilitate rapid response to, surveillance of, and research on emerging pathogens in herpetofaunal populations.
Ensuring the health of herpetofaunal populations requires an integrated response and management plan that combines epidemiological knowledge, pathogen surveillance, population monitoring, biomedical diagnostics, and intervention strategies. Success of strategic plans for wildlife diseases demands significant coordination among various experts and natural resource practitioners. The PARC National Disease Task Team will facilitate collaborations on herpetofaunal diseases as identified or requested.
Click here to see PARC Amphibian & Reptile Disease Task Team resources, including region-specific resources, useful websites and other helpful information.
PARC Disease Task Team Members
Dr. Matt Gray is a disease ecologist with expertise in amphibian pathogens. Dr. Gray's research uses a combination of field surveillance and controlled experiments in the laboratory and mesocosms to elucidate host-pathogen interactions and factors that might contribute to emergence. Prior to becoming co-chair of the National PARC Disease Task Team, he was co-chair of the Southeast PARC Disease Task Team for six years, and led that group to producing over 20 outreach products. Dr. Gray has led workshops on designing surveillance studies for herpetofaunal pathogens, best practices for sample collection and decontamination, and necropsy procedures. He also is Director of the Global Ranavirus Consortium, and recently co-edited the first book on ranaviruses.
Matt Allender is a zoo and wildlife veterinarian that graduated from the University of Illinois in 2004 with his DVM. He went on to complete a MS investigating the health and disease of box turtles and massasauga rattlesnakes prior to completing a residency in Zoological Medicine at the University of Tennessee and Knoxville Zoo. He then joined the faculty at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois and jointly completed a PhD studying the Epidemiology of Ranavirus in Free-ranging Chelonians. He is the Director of Wildlife Epidemology Laboratory, teaches, performs research, and provides clinical service for free-ranging and captive wildlife.
Michael Adams is a Research Ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center in Corvallis, Oregon. His research focuses on providing useful information related to amphibian conservation for resource management agencies. Research topics including invasive species, climate change, grazing, wetland mitigation, forest management, restoration, and disease. Mike is also the National Lead for the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative and he serves as the USGS Representative on PARC's Federal Agency Steering Committee.
Michelle Christman is a Fish and Wildlife Biologist with the New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Albuquerque, NM and is currently serving as a Co-chair of Southwest PARC. Michelle works on the conservation, recovery, and management of amphibians and reptiles in the southwest United States. She is particularly interested in working with others through collaborative partnerships for conservation. To this end, she strives to facilitate effective partnerships, such as the New Mexico Chiricahua Leopard Frog Conservation and Recovery Team. Disease is a current and pressing threat facing amphibians and reptiles. Michelle is interested in helping land and natural resource managers conserve amphibians and reptiles through relaying information, raising awareness, and finding solutions.
Jennifer Ballard is a veterinarian with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Wildlife Health Office. She is based out of the Natural Resource Program Center in Fort Collins, Colorado. Her responsibilities include providing technical assistance to National Wildlife Refuges in the western United States and representing the office on disease issues in reptiles and amphibians. Jennifer's research interests include wildlife disease ecology and the effects of infectious disease on wildlife population stability. She serves as the USFWS Alternate on PARC's Federal Agency Steering Committee.
James Lewis is the Director of Conservation Programs for Global Wildlife Conservation and Director of Operations for the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA). Specializing in conservation project development and strategic planning, he works closely with the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Amphibian Specialist Group and many organizations around the world focused on amphibian conservation issues. James has been working closely on the development of the ASA since 2011. Prior to working with the ASA, James worked at Conservation International on their Amphibian Program and spent several years working in Central America helping to develop a number of conservation programs with international volunteer organizations and the Wildlife Conservation Society's Ocean Giants Program.
Dede Olson studies the conservation biology, behavioral ecology, and population and community ecology of amphibians. Her current projects address: 1) the effects of forest management practices and riparian buffer widths; 2) microhabitat-to-landscape scale habitat modeling; 3) the effects of climate variation; and 4) the amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis.
Gabriela Parra is a researcher at the main unversity in Mexico City, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Her research integrates systematics and conservation of Mexican amphibians. Her studies on amphibian systematics have been focused on plethodontid salamanders using morphological and molecular data, and as a result her group has described 14 new species and recognizes at least 30 taxa that need to be described. In terms of conservation, her group has worked on Ambystomatid and Plethodontid salamanders and by using molecular techniques have identified those populations with higher risk of extinction. In the last five years, her group has been implementing research projects focusing on chytridiomycosis, the disease caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), as a causal factor of severe population declines observed in plethodontid salamanders in southern Mexico. Ongoing projects include: studies of presence and prevalence of Bd in several areas of Mexico; genetic variation of Bd strains in the country; and the possible synergistic effects of stress caused by temperature and Bd infection, among other factors.
Allison Sacerdote-Velat, PhD. is the Reintroduction Biologist at Lincoln Park Zoo in the Department of Conservation and Science, Graduate Faculty Scholar at Northern Illinois University, former Midwest PARC co-chair, and Midwest PARC steering committee member. Allison's work focuses on regional recovery efforts with herpetofauna, chiefly pond-breeding amphibians, grassland snakes, and ornate box turtles; as well as small mammals. Her research integrates comparative approaches for applied conservation projects for reintroduction, augmentation, and headstarting to better inform wildlife conservation efforts. She is the co-principle investigator for an amphibian disease and stress surveillance project in the Chicago Wilderness region. Allison is interested in working with other reintroduction, translocation, and headstarting practitioners to develop protocols for minimizing risk of disease transmission in conservation projects.
Scott Smith is a wildlife ecologist whose main focus is conservation and ecology of amphibians and reptiles. As a state agency employee his job duties encompass applied research and various conservation actions (population monitoring, habitat restoration, environmental review, land protection, and public education). Scott's research has run the gamut from investigating amphibian abnormalities, home range and habitat selection of a number of herpetofauna and avian species, to evaluating diamondback terrapin bycatch in commercial crab pots. He is currently lead investigator of a 5-state study on Ranavirus in wood frog breeding ponds. Scott is currently a member of the National PARC Disease Task Team, co-chair of the NEPARC Emerging Diseases Working Group, and a member of the NEPARC Steering Committee. He is a former co-chair of NEPARC as well as an annual NEPARC meeting host. He regularly leads public education workshops on amphibian and reptile ecology and conservation, as well as on field decontamination procedures, and is an instructor in the Maryland Master Naturalist program.
Craig Stephen is the Executive Director of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative. He is a veterinarian and epidemiologist with a focus on population health, health promotion and emerging environmental threats. Craig is a professor at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (University of Saskatchewan), a clinical professor at the School of Population and Public Health (University of British Columbia) as well as holding adjunct positions in department of population health and natural resource science at other universities.