Institute: New Jersey
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $5,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $10,000
Principal Investigators: Ariel Kruger, Peter Morin
Abstract: Symbiotic microbes offer a promising conservation strategy for amphibians threatened by infectious disease. The importance of the amphibian cutaneous microbiome has increased in recent years with the spread of the fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), because some cutaneous microbes are known to confer resistance against this disease. Despite this, little is known about the specificity of the amphibian microbiome or how it is formed. In New Jersey, amphibians live across a range of habitats that differ in water quality. The goal of this research is to understand how environmental factors, such as pH, influence the symbiotic microbes that inhabit amphibian skin. By sampling the same species across sites, we will determine if symbiotic microbes vary across sites, species, and amphibian life stage. We will determine if amphibian microbial communities are similar to environmental bacterial communities by sampling pond bacterial communities. We predict that site will strongly influence the composition of the cutaneous microbiome, and that different species at the same site will have similar symbiotic microbes. Because larval amphibians are entirely aquatic, we predict a strong overlap between pond water bacterial communities and tadpole cutaneous microbes. This research offers insight into how New Jersey’s amphibians may respond to the introduction of Bd, as well as identifying ecosystem characteristics that may influence the amphibian cutaneous microbiome. Using a combination of ecology and microbiology techniques to understand amphibian cutaneous microbiomes is the first step toward conserving imperiled amphibians.