Research

Global amphibian declines

Recently, I led a team of 42 researchers from across the globe to quantify the impact of the devastating pathogen, chytrid fungus, on the world’s amphibians. This research, published in Science, demonstrated that the pathogen is associated with the decline of over 500 amphibian species, with up to 90 of these species potentially extinct.

Amphibian declines have occurred globally, with most declines in Central and South America. Remarkably, declines have occurred across a wide variety of families and genera. This research is nicely summarized in this awesome article by Ed Yong in The Atlantic: The Worst Disease Ever Recorded

Global distribution of chytridiomycosis-associated amphibian species declines.
Taxonomic distribution of chytridiomycosis-associated amphibian declines.

Niche theory in conservation

I am interested in the integration of ecological theory into the study of species declines. In a paper published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, I introduced the ‘niche reduction hypothesis’, which postulates that as species decline, they can simultaneously experience a reduction in their realised niche breadth because environmental, biotic, and evolutionary processes reduce or amplify threats, or because a species’ capacity to tolerate threats varies across niche space. Applying a niche lens can help understand why species decline in some locations and not others, and improve management by identifying where to focus resources and which interventions are most likely to be effective in a given environment.

Conceptual model of how environmentally heterogeneous threat impacts and heterogeneous responses of impacted species can alter realised niche breadth in declining species

Amphibian ecology

Much of my empirical research has focused on examining how susceptible frog species can persist despite the presence of chytrid fungus. I examine how the outcome of host-pathogen interactions are shaped by environmental conditions and biotic interactions to reveal mechanisms of species persistence with novel threats. This work has focused on frogs in eastern Australia, but I have also worked on chytrid fungus in Romania.

Swabbing a Yellow-bellied Toad in Romania for chytrid fungus

Amphibian conservation

My research on chytrid fungus is aligned with informing the development of effective management strategies to prevent population declines and species extinctions. I currently lead a project developing conservation measures for the critically endangered corroboree frog.

Captive breeding and head starting methods for critically endangered frogs

Threatened species monitoring and adaptive management

I lead synthesis research on threatened species monitoring and management in Australia. This work focuses on quantifying how much monitoring is done, uncovering key challenges inhibiting effective management, as well as identifying ways to improve monitoring and management. If you’re interested in threatened species monitoring, then check out our new book on this topic.

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