By Emily Berge-Thielmann
Dr. Sarah Snyder, Assistant Professor of Biology at Simon’s Rock, and her students have been involved with a fascinating program currently ongoing. In the fall semester of 2022, Simon’s Rock was selected to be a collaborator in the Student Network for Amphibian Pathogen Surveillance (SNAPS).
As part of this collaboration with 29 colleges in North America, the students in Herpetology Fall 2022 and Ecology Fall 2023 classes swabbed amphibians on campus in an attempt to detect early the emergence of a fungal pathogen.
“The emerging fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) is threatening salamanders in Europe and North America. Bsal is yet to be detected in North America but its accidental introduction is likely, making the early detection of Bsal essential for minimizing its negative impact. Unfortunately, early detection is inherently challenging, requiring broad and long-term surveillance that can be expensive, time-consuming and logistically challenging. The Student Network for Amphibian Pathogen Surveillance (SNAPS) leverages student-power to conduct ongoing and cost-effective Bsal surveillance by incorporating surveillance into undergraduate curriculum. This is a project of the Surveillance Working Group of the North American Bsal Task Force,” states the SNAPS website.
Students collected red backed salamanders and eastern red spotted newts (both aquatic adults and terrestrial efts) on campus and swabbed the skin of each salamander in the lab for fungal pathogens. Samples were sent to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center where DNA was extracted and amplified to detect the presence of two fungal pathogens (Bsal and Bd). Bsal was not detected in any samples from fall 2023 (as expected), according to Dr. Snyder. 55% of samples were positive for Bd, a fungus which also infects frogs. The impact of Bd on amphibians varies by species.
Simon’s Rock’s selection to this program allowed our school free materials, covering shipment costs and paying for molecular analysis.
Please visit the following link to see all institutions participating in SNAPS in North America: https://snaps.amphibiandisease.org/who-is-snaps/