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Grad School Update - Almost the Field Season!

Posted 04-18-2009 at 11:44 PM by MonarchzMan
Updated 04-18-2009 at 11:48 PM by MonarchzMan

I'm in the final stages of preparing for collecting data for my thesis work, and it looks like it's going to be a busy summer! I'm going to have my committee meeting in a couple weeks, but barring any major changes, this is the plan:

The current ideas are to tackle O. pumilio from a variety of fronts. First, I am going to attempt to figure out population sizes and densities for at least twelve populations (currently going to have more, but the populations I'm going to hit, barring changes, will be Colon, Bastimentos, Solarte, Shepherd's, Pelican Key, San Cristobal, Popa North and South, Loma Partida, Cayo de Agua, Aguacate, Robalo, Uyama, Guaramo/Rambala, Chiriqui Grande, Almirante, Valiente, and *possibly* Escudo, so 18 populations right now, but that might change come the committee meeting). That's just this year. I might try to hit other, more remote populations next year depending on what I can collect this year. With any luck, I'll have a ton of data on a ton of different populations.

I'll run 150 meter transects into forest fragments, not only to get ideas on population density, but also to look at fragmentation effects on the frogs (basically, as I go deeper into the forest, will I see changes in frog density?). This should give me excellent data on how frogs are being affected by the massive amount of fragmentation happening in the area. I'm going to try to get some data on the Red Frog Beach project, but we'll see if that happens. That might be pretty iffy since there's all sorts of security there.

I was going to do a limiting resources analysis on 6 populations, but found that that is going to be ridiculously difficult, so I'm just going to manipulate rearing sites and leaf litter on several sites on Colon, to see if I get population responses there. If I do, I can then conclude that one or the other has a significant effect on the frogs and might be able to see if such things are different from population to population. I'll see if I can figure out what the invertebrates are in the leaf litter, and see if there is a relationship there or not.

I'm going to try to assess the impact of the pet trade on the frogs as well. This might be done in the second field season since it seems as though this field season is going to be devoted to transect data. I'll probably interview locals and try to get some data on "frog farms." My professor suggested making a survey for froggers here in the US and Europe to see what sort of demand there is on frogs, so if that's the case, I might be asking froggers to fill out a survey for me.

I've also added a chytrid study to my work. I'm going to try to swab frogs from each of the places so I can get an idea of where chytrid is in the archipelago. There was a recent paper that came out that didn't find any chytrid in pumilio on Bastimentos, which I found surprising, so I'm going to also add in a swab for marine toads (since they're pond breeders), so I can see if pumilio are just behaviorally "resistant" to the disease or if it truly is not there.

Hopefully by the end of it all, I'll be able to say what populations need protection and what populations are doing just fine, and be able to recommend changes to the Panamanian government concerning conservation.

I'm currently filling out my Animal Care and Use forms so that I can do the research, and they had me estimate how many frogs I'm going to be working with, and in doing the math, I estimated that I'd work with 2580 frogs! That was a bit of a shock! By the end of my second season, I might be working with well over 5000 frogs! Pretty insane when you start thinking about it.

My primary concern is getting good data on the river populations (Uyama, Robalo, Guaramo/Rambala) because when you look at the satellite map of them, the area is very fragmented. It's possible that those populations could be wiped out in the next 10 years. Pretty scary thought. Hopefully my research will get the Panamanian government to protect populations or get private individuals to try to protect them and buy land for the frogs.

At the end of the season, on my way back to Panama City, I plan to hit up EVACC and seeing their facility there. I'm very excited about that, not only to make connections, but to see amphibians that I may never get a chance to see in the wild because of chytrid.

Overall, it's going to be an exciting, but busy summer. I'll definitely keep regular updates here when possible. I leave for Panama on May 20 and the field season starts June 13 (first three weeks are with a study abroad). Just about a month away!!!
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