Wednesday, October 28, 2015

New online course on ranaviruses

Open to any one interested, student or non-student, the GRC is offering an online course on ranaviruses from Feb 3-April 20, 2016. Based on the curriculum it looks like it's going to be a very comprehensive course! You also don't need any prior knowledge or background in ranaviruses to take it. Kudos to the GRC for yet again making science accessible to all!!


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Global ranavirus reporting system is live

Very excited to report there is now a global ranavirus reporting system (GRRS) where researchers can report infection and die-offs, and it's open to the public! It's brand new so there isn't much there yet, but keep checking back to watch the GRRS grow. Here is the GRC notification about the GRRS:

"Many thanks to the scientists and programmers at the EcoHealth Alliance (Andrew Huff, Russell Horton, Nathan Breit, Amy Slagle), Dede Olson (U.S. Forest Service), and several GRC members (Jesse Brunner, Amanda Duffus, Debra Miller) for their efforts in creating this state-of-the-art online geospatial database for ranaviruses.  Unlike many mapping systems, supportive evidence can be uploaded with each case including photos and diagnostic information.  Records can be sorted and uploaded by various case attributes including host and ranavirus species, population type (captive vs. wild), and diagnostic techniques.
We encourage all ranavirus researchers to upload previously confirmed cases (published and unpublished) of ranavirus infection and disease by 31 December 2015.  Once the GRRS is populated, its full potential will be realized.  You can upload cases as individual records or in bulk with a CSV file.  After files are uploaded, a database manager will inspect them before they are released publically.  Records can be shared with the public fully or obfuscated.  Video and written instructions are provided on the GRRS website.  Additionally, questions and suggestions for improvement can be emailed to Amanda Duffus ( or Jesse Brunner ("
Click here to view the GRRS website and recent press release.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

First book on ranaviruses published

I'm happy to report that Matt Gray (U Tennessee) and Greg Chinchar (U Mississippi) have compiled all current knowledge on ranaviruses into the first ever published book. Now for the icing on the cake: IT'S OPEN ACCESS!!! You can download the .pdf version here, or if you simply must have a hard copy to read by the fire or as a stocking stuffer for all your friends and family, it is available from Springer for ~$25.

Spring egg mass counts are also complete out at Heiberg, and even though the wood frogs and spotted salamanders had a late start this year because of the late thaw, they are prolific as ever! The little egg masses still have a long road ahead of them, and must survive voracious predators like  predaceous diving beetles and green frog tadpoles. Huh? Yep - green frogs deposit their eggs here in the Northeast US in the summer, and once they hatch, the tadpoles bury themselves in the muck and keep growing throughout the winter (sometimes they will even delay metamorphosis for 3 years!). That means by the following spring they are big enough to make a tasty morsel out of little wood frog eggs. Please enjoy the following videos of a Dytiscid beetle and some yearling green frogs munching away, as goes the circle of life. Feel free to imagine a Sir David Attenborough narration, accompanied by the chorus of peeps and trillings of spring peepers in the background.

Now for a salamander breeding rundown: Spotted salamanders (like other members of the order) reproduce via spermatophores - little gelatinous "sperm packets" attached to a sticky base. Males will deposit these spermatophores on substrate, leaves, rocks, or sticks, and females will come along and take the sperm up into her cloaca (multipurpose genital and excretory opening). Thus salamander eggs are fertilized internally before they are deposited, unlike the externally fertilized frog eggs. If you take a close look at the photo below, you can see little white blobs on the leaf litter covering the pool bottom. These are spermatophores that were rejected by females and not used for fertilization. Better luck next time, guys!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015 has launched!

Super exciting news if you're into collaboration (if you're not, go away.) - the GRC has launched a new website,! There is general information on ranavirus, along with publications, who to contact, labs (both national and international) that offer ranavirus testing if you stumble across a possible outbreak, and an announcement for the 2015 Global Ranavirus Symposium. Speaking of which, I have officially submitted an abstract to participate in the Symposium this year in Gainesville, Fl, and can declare myself a charter member of the GRC. Good stuff.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


TWS2014 is turning out to be quite the productive, collaborative conference! Of course I'm a bit biased, but it is refreshing to see talks from and meet with all the amazing people in the field of ranavirus research (without any of them saying "Is that like Bd?" - can I get an "amen" from the RV people!).  On a related note, for all things ranavirus...if I haven't already posted this...check out the Global Ranavirus Consortium for updates and publication lists. Dr. Matthew Gray, GRC director, U Tennessee faculty member & coordinator of the UT Wetlands Program has done a great job with collaborators organizing the GRC site and publishing the first ever book on ranavirus, which we're all SUPER excited about. Look for the book coming out early 2015.
I have also met lots of other students/researchers working on some great ranavirus monitoring projects around the country, and will give a shout out to a very motivated undergrad, Brandon Perrone, working with Dr. Bridgette Hagerty at York College in PA. They are monitoring a local vernal pool for RV prevalence in both tadpoles and adults, and projects like this are exactly what we need to develop a deeper understanding of where and when these outbreaks hit.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Wildlife Society Conference 2014

The ARVP will be making its national conference debut at TWS 2014! Check out the conference at I will be presenting a poster at the student research in progress poster session entitled "Environmental factors affecting ranavirus prevalence among aquatic-breeding amphibians in natural and constructed ponds". New addition to poster: preliminary results!!! Follow me on twitter @codenameribbit for a play-by-play at the conference.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

First 2014 die-off observed

First, to start off on a high note before the misery soon to follow, let me show you some new metamorphs! These cute little wood frogs are starting to emerge from the pools, and they can be found around Heiberg in various sizes and states of metamorphosis. Many things can affect the size of newly morphed frogs, including genetics, egg size, population density, competition, food availability, and cannibalism (yes, there are tadpole cannibals!). For a good basic read on the subject (Berven & Chadra 1988), click here

One pre-existing pool was surrounded by some of the tiniest emerging wood frogs I've ever seen! This one, at Gosner stage 45, was only about 7mm long.

This metamorph from a different site is nearly twice the body length (snout-vent) as the one above, but at Gosner stage 43-44 is not as far along in development.

Now for the doom and gloom. The artificial vernal pools in Heiberg Forest were constructed in groups of 1, 3, or 9 pools using a hexagonal grid to separate the groupings. Hexagon 5, the site of die-offs observed in previous years, has experienced yet another wood frog die-off beginning July 10 of this year. At least 3 of the 9 pools were affected. Most wood frog tadpoles had already died and begun decomposing, and those sampled alive were lethargic, swimming erratically, and/or had visible signs of ranavirus including sloughing skin, edema (swelling), and subcutaneous hemorrhaging. Although die-offs can happen very rapidly and are easily missed if diseased individuals die and decompose quickly, this appears to be the first one this year.

This wood frog tadpole clearly shows signs of edema. Poor little thing looked like a balloon compared to its poolmates.
Internal hemorrhaging can be seen in the lower abdomen