Current Research Topic
My research in the Vredenburg Lab at San Francisco State University currently focuses on amphibian chytridiomycosis, a disease affecting amphibians that is caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (hereafter Bd). Bd, as a single pathogen, drove close to an estimated 200 species of amphibians worldwide to near extinction. My master's thesis uses an integrative approach of historical sampling, field sampling, and lab infection trials to try and disentangle the dynamics of Bd in Indonesia - a relatively unexplored system - where Bd is present but no declines have been reported. In the future, I hope to continue conducting research on disease dynamics while also diversifying into how pathogen evolution, abiotic factors, and the hosts’ behaviors can impact disease dynamics.
What is Amphibian Chytridiomycosis?
Beginning in the late 1970's, amphibian population declines were reported in many parts of the world. Though there are many possible reasons for these declines, amphibian chytridiomycosis is thought to be a prominent factor. The word "chytridiomycosis" comes from the latin words "chytrid" which is the most primitive known group of fungi while "mycosis" which means "a disease caused by a fungi."
The chytrid that causes this disease is known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (or Bd for short). When we think of fungi, what usually comes to mind are mold and the mushrooms we see on the supermarket shelves. Bd belongs to the most primitive group of fungi, before funguses evolved to have structures like those we see on mushrooms today. Bd spores most closely resembles a sperm cell: an aquatic single cell with a tail that is uses as a rudder to swim. When Bd swims up to a host, it attaches itself to the skin of the host and feeds on their skin. The host, attempting to fight the pathogen, would then keratinize and thicken. As amphibians use their skin to breathe and maintain water balance, thickening of the skin can lead to death by cardiac failure.