Karen R. Lips is a biologist at the University of Maryland.
In the winter of 1993, Lips was a PhD student working on her dissertation in Costa Rica when she first observed the then-unknown disease wreak havoc on local frog populations.In some of her studies, she focuses not on skin secretions, but on the genes involved in the frog immune system.Lips' work more than 20 years ago eventually contributed to the identification of the chytrid fungus as the primary cause of frog decline worldwide.
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the University of Maryland
To test that possibility, she and her colleagues collected skin secretions from captive frogs in the Maryland Zoo. To determine how much good skin secretions do, Dr. Lips said, it would be necessary to infect frogs and see whether stronger skin secretions actually keep more frogs alive. In some of her studies, she focuses not on skin secretions, but on the genes involved in the frog immune system. “Their genes are going crazy, but it doesn’t matter,” Dr. Lips said. It’s possible that the immune system of frogs will turn out to be a key to the rebound of some species, or their skin secretions — or both.
Genetic sleuthing has revealed the source the deadly fungus that is killing frogs and other amphibians around the world: the Korean peninsula. Scientists attempt to isolate the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis from amphibians which have died from chytridiomycosis in the Pyrenees. While there had been a growing number of reports pointing towards Asia as the source of these amphibian pathogens, only recently has it been possible to do the genetic work needed to more clearly identify the source, said Karen Lips of the University of Maryland, a world leader in tropical biology, amphibian declines and conservation policy making. She worries that we might see new lineages of the fungus introduced into the U.S., because so many different genetic lineages are circulating through the international amphibian trade.