Archive for the News Category

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.

Dr. Woodhams receives grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

USFWS golden frog tadpole

Panamanian Golden Frog (Atelopus limosus) tadpole.
Photo: Brian Gratwicke.

Dr. Woodhams was awarded $25,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Amphibians in Decline Program for his proposal, Priming Immune Function of Endangered Panama Golden Frogs Prior to Reintroduction.  The project targets treatments at the tadpole stage of the now extinct-in-the-wild Atelopus zeteki that will be housed in an automated flow-through aquatics system at UMass Boston. Successful disease management treatments will be applied prior to reintroduction efforts in Panama.

New paper published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology

Rainbow Trout Figure - Woodhams et al 2015

Figure showing bacterial communities at five body sites in rainbow trout.

A collaboration with researchers at University of New Mexico, this study provides a topographical map of the mucosal microbiome of the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Using 16S rRNA pyrosequencing and confocal microscopy, Dr. Woodhams et. al. reveal novel bacterial diversity at each of the five body sites sampled and show that body site is a strong predictor of community composition.

Lowry L, Woodhams DC, Tacchi L, Salinas I. (2015) Topographical mapping of the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) microbiome reveals a diverse bacterial community in the skin with antifungal properties. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 81:6915-6925.

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Study published in Biological Conservation finds skin bacteria protect some frogs from killer chytrid fungus

 Credit: Freddyfish4 (Wikimedia Commons)

Newly metamorphosed southern leopard frog
(Rana sphenocephala).
Credit: Freddyfish4 (Wikimedia Commons)

In a new study, southern leopard frogs (Lithobates sphenocephala) treated with an antibiotic cocktail which eliminated their skin microbes were more likely to be affected by the chytrid fungus, whereas frogs that maintained their normal skin microbes fared better against the fungus.

Holden WM, Hanlon SM, Woodhams DC, Chappell TM, Wells HL, Glisson SM, McKenzie VJ, Knight R, Parris MJ, Rollins-Smith LA. (2015) Skin bacteria provide early protection for newly metamorphosed southern leopard frogs (Rana sphenocephala) against the frog-killing fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Biological Conservation, 187, 91-102.

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Antifungal Isolates Database Goes Online


Antifungal Bacteria from Amphibian Skin

A collaborative effort of 26 investigators, led by Dr. Doug Woodhams, has put together a culture collection and database of bacteria associated with the skin of amphibians from North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Oceania. All isolates were tested for activity against the chytrid fungus responsible for disease emergence and amphibian die-offs around the world. This growing database will allow researchers to identify native beneficial bacteria that can be used for probiotic therapies against the fungus.

Woodhams DC and 25 co-authors (2015) Antifungal isolates database of amphibian skin-associated bacteria and function against emerging fungal pathogens. Ecology, 96:595.

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