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Drivers of winter infection dynamics of an amphibian pathogen

posted on 21.06.2022, 13:26 authored by Spencer Raymond SiddonsSpencer Raymond Siddons

Infectious  diseases  are  becoming  increasingly  common  and  problematic  for  wildlife populations in many parts of the world. Disease prevalence and severity fluctuate over time, often due to the ubiquitous pressure of seasonality, or  the cyclic changes in ecological systems. However, for  many  host-pathogen  systems,  our  understanding of important  seasonal  drivers of  disease remains fragmented. For example, when seasonality of a disease is studied in medium and high latitudes, winter is often neglected, despite this being a period of physiological and immunological challenges associated with extreme environmental conditions. Therefore, my aim is to examine  drivers  of winter Infection dynamics of the amphibian fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. First, B. dendrobatidis infection prevalence was measured from spring through fall to understand local infection levels and anthropogenic influences (Chapter 1). Next, laboratory  experiments examined the effects of B. dendrobatidis on critical thermal minimum of two anuran species to identify how this pathogen influences the ability of hosts to survive winter (Chapter 2). Another laboratory experiment tested how road de-icing salt (commonly used in winter) influences B. dendrobatids and a tadpole host condition and subsequent host-pathogen interactions (Chapter 3). Finally, a field-based exploration of B. dendrobatidis infection dynamics was conducted during winter to understand how infections vary during in this season and between two overwintering strategies (Chapter  4). Winter  infection  dynamics  in  many  host-pathogen  systems are largely understudied, but the knowledge gained by this work can demonstrate how harsh environmental conditions of winter that can exacerbate otherwise benign infections, and affect the ability of hosts to sustain infections during winter. This work can therefore inform predictions and investigations of  infection  dynamics in  subsequent  seasons to  better  understand  the  seasonality  of  wildlife diseases.


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Biological Sciences

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Catherine Searle

Additional Committee Member 2

Ximena Bernal

Additional Committee Member 3

Dennis Minchella

Additional Committee Member 4

Alessandro Catenazzi