Nautilus cites UMaine for role in advancing research on fungus harmful to amphibians

The online science magazine Nautilus mentioned the role played by Joyce Longcore and Joan Brooks at the University of Maine in advancing research on chytrid, a fungus that is the biggest threat to the world’s montane amphibian populations. In 1984, Brooks, who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in peat engineering and science at UMaine, was researching interactions between fungi and bacteria in peat bogs, as part of a National Science Foundation grant. Brooks needed help and reached out to Longcore, a former University of Michigan fungi researcher, who had left academia to raise a family. The story recounts how Longcore began collecting chytrids, examining them and publishing the results of her research. Later, when poison blue dart frogs began dying mysteriously at the National Zoo in Washington, the zoo’s pathologists came across Longcore’s research. Working together, the scientists determined that chytrid fungus was causing a disease that was responsible for killing the frogs. Other researchers soon linked the disease to massive die-offs of amphibians in Costa Rica, Australia and the Western United States. Longcore is a research professor in UMaine’s School of Biology and Ecology.