PARC National Disease Task Team

PARC has formed a Disease Task Team to facilitate and guide communication on herpetofaunal diseases.

Mission and Objectives

The North American landscape has undergone unprecedented change in the last 100 years, and many environments no longer resemble the ecosystems where species evolved. In some cases, these changes have created ideal conditions for the emergence of infectious diseases. Herpetofauna are among the most imperiled vertebrate taxa, and pathogens are playing a role in their decline. In the past 15 years, widespread epidemics have been observed, such as those associated with Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (a type of chytrid fungus) and ranavirus. Recently, Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola (Snake Fungal Disease) in the eastern USA and a new species of chytrid fungus in Europe (B. salamandrivorans) emerged. Undoubtedly, humans are playing a role in the emergence of herpetofaunal pathogens, whether through altering environmental conditions or translocating pathogens over large geographical distances, where they function as novel disease agents. Conserving the health of herpetofaunal populations is fundamental to conserving the integrity and biodiversity of ecosystems.

Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) have long recognized the importance of disease, with several PARC regions having Disease Task Teams. Responding to disease emergence often requires collaboration among government agencies, non-government organizations, universities, and the public, which can extend beyond PARC regions. Thus, PARC formed the National Disease Task Team to:

Facilitate and guide communication and collaboration on herpetofaunal diseases among PARC regions, federal and state agencies, and partners

The objectives of the PARC National Disease Task Team are to:

  1. Identify issues and concerns related to herpetofaunal disease in North America;
  2. Coordinate the development of outreach products on herpetofaunal diseases;
  3. Provide a centralized online location where outreach products on herpetofaunal diseases are available; and
  4. Facilitate rapid response to, surveillance of, and research on emerging pathogens in herpetofaunal populations.

Ensuring the health of herpetofaunal populations requires an integrated response and management plan that combines epidemiological knowledge, pathogen surveillance, population monitoring, biomedical diagnostics, and intervention strategies. Success of strategic plans for wildlife diseases demands significant coordination among various experts and natural resource practitioners. The PARC National Disease Task Team will facilitate collaborations on herpetofaunal diseases as identified or requested.

Herpetofaunal Disease Resources

Click here to see PARC Amphibian & Reptile Disease Task Team resources, including region-specific resources, useful websites and other helpful information.

NEW: Herpetofaunal Disease Alert System (HDAS)

To facilitate communication of ongoing disease events in amphibians and reptiles, the PARC Disease Task Team (DTT) has created a disease alert email for people in the USA and Canada to report an incident of sick, dying, or multiple dead amphibians or reptiles. The intent of the PARC DTT is to facilitate communication between the public, professionals, and agencies with the jurisdiction and resources to respond and report a possible case of herpetofaunal disease. The PARC DTT maintains a current list of appropriate individuals to contact in the USA and Canada. To submit a possible case of amphibian or reptile disease, simply send an email to: herp_disease_alert@parcplace.org , with the information below.

Include in your email:

  1. Your name and e-mail address (for any follow-up questions)
  2. Date of observation
  3. What you saw,
  4. Where it was,
  5. What types of animals were involved (species [if you are sure of the identification], life stage [eggs, larvae, subadults, adults]),
  6. Is it ongoing (only dead or decayed animals, some sick-looking animals that are alive?),
  7. Any photos or other relevant information

The Federal, State or Provincial contacts for herpetofaunal diseases will be alerted, and they may contact you further for additional information. Following the report, the managing agency will make a decision on whether or not a follow-up action is needed. This system will help us to facilitate early detection and rapid response actions, where possible. It will also aid our understanding of the scope and severity of emerging infectious diseases. Thank you in advance for your help to keep our herps healthy!

HDAS Resources

PARC Disease Task Team Members

  • Katie Haman, Co-Chair, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Dan Grear, Co-Chair, U.S. Geological Survey
  • Michael Adams, U.S. Geological Survey
  • A. Alonso Aguirre, George Mason University 
  • Matthew Allender, University of Illinois
  • Jenn Ballard, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
  • Molly Bletz, University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Laura Brazelton, Dallas, TX
  • Michelle Christman, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Matthew Gray, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
  • Paula Henry, U.S. Geological Survey
  • Dede Olson, U.S. Forest Service
  • Christine Parker-Graham, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Lisa Shender, National Park Service
  • Laura Sprague, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Katie Haman, 2020-2021 Co-Chair

Katie Haman is a Fish and Wildlife Veterinarian with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. She completed her MSc in 2006 from the University of Maryland and then spent years working as a field biologist with a primary focus on reptiles, fish, and birds before going back to vet school. During this time she was fortunate to spend time working in amazing, pristine ecosystems from an undeveloped barrier island off the coast of Georgia to Antarctica. After finishing her DVM from the University of Georgia, she began pursuing a PhD in Zoology with a focus in Molecular Epidemiology. Joining WDFW in 2014, she now focuses on fish and non-game wildlife health in the state of Washington, with a key interest in the role host microbiomes may play in disease and overall population health of fish and wildlife species, especially salmonids, reptiles, and amphibians. Katie is the lead of WDFW’s Western Pond Turtle Health Team, a highly functional collaborative team established to investigate the etiology and impact of a devastating shell disease in this species, one of only two native turtles in Washington.

 

Dan Grear, 2021-2022 Co-Chair

Dan Grear

Dan Grear is a wildlife disease ecologist at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, WI. Dan leads investigations into wildlife mortality events and conduct research on wildlife diseases. Dan’s research spans 3 themes (i) describe patterns of wildlife mortality resulting from novel and emerging diseases, (ii) develop applied statistical and mathematical models to forecast host and pathogen population processes in wildlife, and (iii) incorporate evolutionary principles into application of genomic data to understanding patterns and consequences of wildlife disease.   Dan also coordinates surveillance and disease studies as a member of the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative.

 

Michael Adams

Michael Adams is a Research Ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center in Corvallis, Oregon. His research focuses on providing useful information related to amphibian conservation for resource management agencies. Research topics including invasive species, climate change, grazing, wetland mitigation, forest management, restoration, and disease. Mike is also the National Lead for the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative and he serves as the USGS Representative on PARC’s Federal Agency Steering Committee.

Matt Allender

Matt Allender is a zoo and wildlife veterinarian that graduated from the University of Illinois in 2004 with his DVM. He went on to complete a MS investigating the health and disease of box turtles and massasauga rattlesnakes prior to completing a residency in Zoological Medicine at the University of Tennessee and Knoxville Zoo. He then joined the faculty at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois and jointly completed a PhD studying the Epidemiology of Ranavirus in Free-ranging Chelonians. He is the Director of Wildlife Epidemiology Laboratory, teaches, performs research, and provides clinical service for free-ranging and captive wildlife. Matt is a previous Co-Chair of the DTT.

Molly Bletz

Molly Bletz

Dr. Molly Bletz is an ecologist whose research lies at the intersection of disease ecology, microbial ecology and amphibian conservation. Molly’s studies have taken her from the US to Panama, from Germany to Madagascar, to investigate disease dynamics, host susceptibility, the ecology of host-associated microbiota, and disease mitigation strategies. She received her Masters from James Madison University working with Dr. Reid Harris on the idea of using skin probiotics to combat the lethal chytrid fungus that has decimated amphibian populations. She continued this research for her PhD at the Technical University of Braunschweig in Germany by working to understand the microbial ecology of host-associated microbiota and the beneficial role these communities play in protection against pathogens, particularly for amphibians. As a David H. Smith Conservation Postdoc fellow She began proactive research to understand the newly emerged salamander fungus, Bsal.  Now as a Research Assistant Professor at UMass Boston, Molly continues to conduct research to understand Bsaland develop integrative disease management tools proactively to minimize amphibian declines. Molly co-chairs the Research working group of the Bsal Task Force and serves as the Director of International Disease Mitigation for the Amphibian Survival Alliance.

Laura Brazelton

Laura Brazelton

Laura Brazelton is a small animal/exotics veterinarian who graduated from the University of Illinois in 2005 with her DVM. She has focused much of her practice work on reptiles, birds, amphibians, and small mammals since then.  Laura is currently practicing at a small animal clinic in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She has a strong interest in wildlife conservation, especially as it relates to reptile and amphibian diseases.  She is also a part of the PARC Disease Task Team’s Herp Disease Alert System.

 

Michelle Christman

Michelle Christman is a Fish and Wildlife Biologist with the New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Albuquerque, NM and is currently serving as a Co-chair of Southwest PARC. Michelle works on the conservation, recovery, and management of amphibians and reptiles in the southwest United States. She is particularly interested in working with others through collaborative partnerships for conservation. To this end, she strives to facilitate effective partnerships, such as the New Mexico Chiricahua Leopard Frog Conservation and Recovery Team. Disease is a current and pressing threat facing amphibians and reptiles. Michelle is interested in helping land and natural resource managers conserve amphibians and reptiles through relaying information, raising awareness, and finding solutions.

Matt Gray

Dr. Matt Gray is a disease ecologist with expertise in amphibian pathogens. Dr. Gray’s research uses a combination of field surveillance and controlled experiments in the laboratory and mesocosms to elucidate host-pathogen interactions and factors that might contribute to emergence. Prior to becoming co-chair of the National PARC Disease Task Team, he was co-chair of the Southeast PARC Disease Task Team for six years, and led that group to producing over 20 outreach products. Dr. Gray has led workshops on designing surveillance studies for herpetofaunal pathogens, best practices for sample collection and decontamination, and necropsy procedures. He also is Director of the Global Ranavirus Consortium, and recently co-edited the first book on ranaviruses. Matt is a previous Co-Chair of the DTT.

Paula Henry

Paula Henry

Paula Henry is a Research Physiologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland.  Her research includes studies on individual response and ecological effects on avian, amphibian and reptile species to climate change, urban-related variables, fossil fuel extraction methods, and sublethal, long term exposures to environmental chemical contaminants.  Paula has been actively involved in NEPARC’s efforts to inform the general public, field biologists, contractors and resource managers on the importance of disinfection practices for minimizing the spread of herpetofaunal pathogens.

 

Dede Olson

Dede Olson studies the conservation biology, behavioral ecology, and population and community ecology of amphibians. Her current projects address: 1) the effects of forest management practices and riparian buffer widths; 2) microhabitat-to-landscape scale habitat modeling; 3) the effects of climate variation; and 4) the amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis.

 

Christine Parker-Graham

Christine Parker-Graham

Christine Parker-Graham is a Veterinary Medical Officer with the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region Fish Health Program, based out of Lacey, WA. She earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Davis and graduated with a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from UC Davis’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She completed an internship in Zoo, Wildlife, and Exotic Medicine at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and a fellowship in Aquatic Animal Health at UC Davis before serving as an associate veterinarian at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD. Christine joined USFWS in 2019 providing veterinary services to aquatic species propagated by USFWS on the Olympic Peninsula and Abernathy Fish Technology Center.

 

Robert “Oz” Ossiboff

Robert Ossiboff

Robert “Oz” Ossiboff is an anatomic pathologist, virologist, and molecular diagnostician that graduated from Cornell University with a DVM and PhD in 2010. He went on to complete an anatomic pathology residency at Cornell University and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) at the Bronx Zoo. He completed an additional Molecular Pathology Fellowship and Wildlife Pathology post-doctoral associate position at WCS and Cornell, respectively before spending one year with the Zoo Pathology Program at the University of Illinois. In 2017, he started at the University of Florida to help establish a new pathology program focusing on diseases of aquatic, amphibian, and reptile species exclusively. Dr. Ossiboff’s research interests focus on the identification and characterization of infectious diseases of captive and free-ranging herpetofauna, with current focuses including amphibian chytridiomycoses, ophidian respiratory viruses, and reptile and amphibian endoparasites. He greatly enjoys teaching students and trainees at all levels of education about reptile and amphibian disease, biology, and husbandry.

Laura Sprague

Laura Sprague is a fish health biologist for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at the Idaho Fish Health Center located in Orofino, Idaho, which is part of the the Pacific Northwest Fish Health Program. In addition to monitoring the heath of fish and aquatic organisms on Federal and Tribal hatcheries, she runs assays like bacteriology and PCR/QPCR in the lab. Her primary responsibility is surveying for aquatic pathogens in wild and feral fish and amphibian populations in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys working with multiple inter- and intra-agency partners to develop biosecurity plans to prevent the introduction and spread of pathogens and aquatic nuisance species.

 

Former Members

  • Tracy Thompson, former Co-Chair, National Park Service
  • Reid Harris, James Madison University
  • Jim Julian, Penn State Altoona
  • Gabriela Parra Olea, National Autonomous University of Mexico
  • Allison Sacerdote-Velat, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
  • Hein Snyman, British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory