A Tale of Two Canyons: Abiotic factors and the distribution of a pathogenic fungus in southeastern Arizona
Chytridiomycosis, an infectious disease caused by the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), has played a significant role in global amphibian declines. Researchers studying Bd aim to gain a better understanding of how this pathogen survives in unique microhabitats to promote persistence of amphibians in their natural habitat. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has worked for the last 12 years to recover populations of Chiricahua Leopard Frogs to ensure the species survives in the Huachuca Mountains in southeastern Arizona. During this time, the department tested for Bd throughout their release sites. As a result of large differences in prevalence noted in prior sampling for Bd in Miller and Ramsey canyons, I investigated abiotic factors that could explain these differences. I analyzed water samples from two canyons in the Huachuca Mountains and used nutrient analysis and filter extraction to test for differences in abiotic factors between these two sites that could affect Bd transmission. Results show that Ramsey Canyon was a positive site for Bd, while Miller Canyon remained negative. Results from water temperature estimates as well as a test for 30 elements revealed possible reasons for differences in Bd transmission between the two canyons.