Archive for the News Category

Trends in Microbiology publishes new study: Managing Amphibian Disease with Skin Microbiota

Trends in MicroBiology 1

Cow Knob salamander, Plethodon punctatus, from George Washington National Forest, VA
Cover photo: Doug Woodhams.

In a section on Science and Society, Woodhams and colleagues describe state-of-the-art approaches for amphibian disease management.  These include probiotic bacteria that persist from aquatic tadpole to terrestrial adult frog stages, and bacteria that produce volatile compounds including hydrogen cyanide that can kill fungus from a distance and could be applied to soils. These management tools were announced on the heels of a moratorium on salamander trade to help prevent invasion by a new salamander chytrid.  This is the 50th peer-reviewed publication from new assistant professor Doug Woodhams, and was supported by the UMass Boston Endowed Faculty Career Development Award.

Woodhams DC, Bletz M, Kueneman J, McKenzie V. (2016) Managing Amphibian Disease with Skin Microbiota. Trends in Microbiology, 24:161-164.


Amanda Peters to join Woodhams lab as IGERT fellow


Amanda Peters, new IGERT fellow at the Woodhams lab.

Amanda Peters was selected as a Coasts and Communities IGERT fellow and joins the Woodhams lab in August 2016.  Amanda is graduating from Washington College in Maryland with a double major in Biology and Environmental Science. She will be involved on the project entitled, “Linking Microbiota and Ecotoxicology with Mosquito-Borne Disease Risk” supported by a seed grant from the Office of Research, Strategic Initiatives and Graduate Studies.

Read more about Amanda Peters in the Woodhams Lab People page.

New Student Awards and Conferences in the Woodhams Lab

Brandon LaBumbard teaches qPCR at the Woodhams lab.

Brandon LaBumbard teaches qPCR at the Woodhams lab.

Kelly Barnhart was awarded $1000 from the Chicago Herpetological Society for her research on “Priming Immune Function of Critically Endangered Panamanian Golden Frogs Prior to Reintroduction.”

Brandon LaBumbard will be attending the JMIH: Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists from July 6-10 in New Orleans and presenting on “Inhibition of pathogenic fungi using volatile organic compounds produced by bacteria” with funding from the UMass Boston Lipke travel award.

Lindsey Raymond was accepted into the Scientific Communication for Undergraduates course sponsored by the NIH’s National Research Mentoring Network and will present her research on May 5.

Trong Nguyen and Kate Seigars completed a semester project supported by the McCone and Alumni research fund on “Testing viability assays of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis.”

Dr. Andreas Hertz returned from his research trip to Panama studying “Amphibian Mucosal Defenses against an Emerging Fungal Disease: testing for Selection in Recovering populations,” supported by the UMass Boston Office of Global Programs.

EcoHealth publishes new study: Antimicrobial peptide activity against trematode parasites


Trematode life cycle.
Image: CU Boulder MBW: Modelling the Dynamics of a Complex Life-Cycle Parasite

In this new article in EcoHealth, Dr. Woodhams with collaborators at University of Colorado Boulder suggests that antimicrobial peptide defenses do not play a significant role in defending larval amphibians against trematode cercariae, but that they could be one mechanism helping to prevent infection of post-metamorphic amphibians, particularly for highly aquatic species.

Calhoun DM, Woodhams DC, Howard C, LaFonte BE, Gregory JR, Johnson PT. Role of Antimicrobial Peptides in Amphibian Defense Against Trematode Infection. (2016) EcoHealth.

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Dr. Woodhams’ research featured in UMass Boston News: New Research from UMass Boston Scientist Could Save Amphibian Lives


Spotted salamanders, Ambystoma maculatum from Blue Hills Reservation, MA.
Photo: Doug Woodhams.

A deadly fungus has been spreading throughout the salamander population around the globe, vexing conservationists and pet owners alike.The chytrid fungus has spread from Asia to the Netherlands and Germany through the pet trade, and could reach North America the same way. Scientists fear that it will kill off rare salamanders in the wild, posing a major risk to the biodiversity of salamander populations in North America.  In a study published recently in Trends in Microbiology, UMass Boston Biology Professor Doug Woodhams has uncovered a method that might help save species of salamanders and frogs from the fungus – using good bacteria to help salamanders fight off chytrid fungal infection…by Anna Fisher-Pinkert.

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Dr. Woodhams contributes to working group on salamander chytrid fungus in the United States


The eft stage of a red-spotted newt in Walker County, Georgia
(Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area).
Photo credit: Alan Cressler, USGS.

Dr. Woodhams contributed to strategic planning for research and monitoring for the salamander chytrid (Bsal) at a workshop headed by the Powell Center, United States Geological Survey. The workshop was the first international meeting to address the threat of Bsal to salamander populations in the United States, with more than 30 participants from U.S. conservation and resource management agencies (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. National Park Service, and Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies) and academic research institutions in Australia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Grant EHC, Muths E, Katz RA, Canessa S, Adam MJ, Ballard JR, Berger L, Briggs CJ, Coleman J, Gray MJ, Harris MC, Harris RN, Hossack B, Huyvaert KP, Kolby JE, Lips KR, Lovich RE, McCallum HI, Mendelson JR, Nanjappa P, Olson DH, Powers JG, Richgels KLD, Russell RE, Schmidt BR, Spitzen-van der Sluijs A, Watry MK, Woodhams DC, White CL. (2015) Salamander chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans) in the United States—Developing research, monitoring, and management strategies: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015–1233, 16 p.,

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Read the USGS press release

Read feature in Science Daily

New paper in Animal Conservation – Avoiding extinction through captive breeding

Ranked probability of avoiding extinction through captive breeding for Panamanian amphibian species perceived to be most susceptible to Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd).

Ranked probability of avoiding extinction through captive breeding for Panamanian
amphibian species perceived to be most susceptible to Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd)

Dr. Woodhams contributed expertise on Panamanian amphibians to a risk assessment and probability of avoiding extinctions through captive breeding programs. The expert assessment approach refines priorities for captive amphibian programs in Panama and identifies priority conservation actions with a clearer understanding of the probability of success.

Gratwicke B, Ross H, Batista A, Chaves G, Crawford AJ, Lara LE, Estrada A, Evans M, Garelle D, Guerrel J, Hertz A, Hughey M, Jaramillo CA, Klocke B, Mandica M, Medina D*, Richards-Zawacki CL, Ryan MJ, Sosa-Bartuano A, Voyles J, Walker B, Woodhams DC, Ibañez R. 2015. Evaluating the probability of avoiding disease-related extinctions of Panamanian amphibians through captive breeding programs. Animal Conservation, in press.

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Dr. Woodhams’ Students Rap “Plasmodium Funk” for Extra Credit

Two of Dr. Woodhams’ students, Jonathan Benney and Nikhil Illa, got creative for an extra credit project in Dr. Woodhams’ Infectious Disease Ecology class.  Thier video/rap outlines the lifecycle of the protozoa Plasmodium, the disease agent of Malaria.

ISME publishes findings: Inhibitory bacteria reduce fungi on early life stages of endangered Colorado boreal toads

Co-occurrence analysis of bacteria and fungi found on boreal toads.

Co-occurrence analysis of bacteria and fungi found on boreal toads.

In this study, Woodhams and collaborators at the University of Colorado, Boulder led by Jordan Kueneman (now Ph.D.), used high-throughput 16S and 18S rRNA gene sequencing (Illumina MiSeq) to characterize bacteria and microeukaryotes from boreal toads. Life stage had the strongest influence on the skin microbiome. Fewer Bd-inhibitory bacteria were detected in post-metamorphic stages correlating with increased skin fungi, suggesting that bacteria have a strong role in early development and reduce skin-associated fungi.

Kueneman JG, Woodhams DC, Van Treuren W, Archer HM, Knight R, McKenzie VJ. (2016) Inhibitory bacteria reduce fungi on early life stages of endangered Colorado boreal toads (Anaxyrus boreas). The ISME Journal. 10:934-944.

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Dr. Woodhams presented with the UMass Boston Endowed Faculty Career Development Award

 Dr. Woodhams receives the Endowed Faculty Career Development Award,presented by UMass Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley (pictured left) and UMass Boston Provost Winston E. Langley (pictured right).

Dr. Woodhams receives the Endowed Faculty Career Development Award,
presented by UMass Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley (pictured left)
and UMass Boston Provost Winston E. Langley (pictured right).

Dr. Woodhams received the 2015 UMass Boston Endowed Faculty Career Development Award.  His proposal, Controlling Amphibian Disease with Skin Microbiota, aims to identify the volatile organic compounds produced by amphibian skin bacteria which can kill the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd).  UMass Chancellor J. Keith Motley, Provost Winston E. Langley, Dean of the College of Science and Math Dr. Andrew J. Grosovsky, and Department Head Rick Kesseli were in attendance for the award presentation at the annual UMass Retired Faculty Luncheon.


Douglas C. Woodhams, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
UMass Boston | Department of Biology
100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, Massachusetts 02125
Phone: 617-287-6679