Darien Province in eastern Panama is one of the most high-diversity amphibian habitats on the planet. Researchers have counted more than 60 amphibian species at a single site. It seems that eastern Panama has not yet been affected by the disease, but scientists are worried. "We have a lot of swab samples from expeditions to Darien, but we haven't had enough people who know how to analyze them," said Andrew Crawford, former post-doctoral fellow at STRI, now professor of biology at Universidad de los Andes.
In Panama research efforts to stop chytridiomycosis are underway. STRI has hosted many of the scientists who have documented the decline. The Houston Zoo set up the El Valle Amphibian Rescue Center to try to save Panama's emblematic golden frog. "Quantitative PCR is extremely useful to us because it can pinpoint the beginning of a die-off," said Edgardo Griffith, director of the center and course participant.
The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, supported by a consortium of zoos and research institutes and coordinated by the Smithsonian's National Zoo, is building a new Amphibian Rescue Center at Summit Nature Park near Panama City.
"During the next several months we will collect frog species on the brink of extinction. We'll use quantitative PCR to make sure that the center's rescue podsfrog habitats made from retrofitted shipping containersstay fungus free," said Roberto Ibez, Smithsonian staff scientist and local director of the project. "This workshop is a vital part of controlling amphibian die-offs in Panama and ensuring that our amphibian rescue efforts pay off."
|Contact: Beth King|
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Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute