Infectious diseases of wildlife are becoming increasingly important as globalisation and environmental change are causing them to emerge and re-emerge. The One Health Research Group uses a multidisciplinary approach to provide holistic solutions to mitigate their impact.
OHRG researchers have been at the forefront of chytridiomycosis research, caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. This disease is of major global concern as it has caused the extinction of approximately 100 amphibian species, and the decline of hundreds more.
The OHRG is lead by wildlife health experts Associate Professor Lee Skerratt and Associate Professor Lee Berger in Veterinary Biosciences, in the Melbourn Veterinary School, in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, at University of Melbourne, Werribee Campus, Victoria
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Effects of disease on reproduction
The aims of this project are to broadly investigate the effects of disease on reproduction, courting behaviour, and population persistence in declining frog species. Frogs are currently experiencing dramatic population declines around the globe, with disease being a major cause of decline. However, some susceptible species are persisting with endemic infection. The aim of this project is to help understand how changes in reproduction and breeding effort and behaviors help mitigate the effects of disease on a population. The project is funded through the Australian Research Council’s funding scheme
Associate Professor Lee Skerratt
Lee leads the One Health Research Group together with Principal Research Fellow, Associate Professor Lee Berger. Expert in Wildlife Biosecurity, wildlife diseases, epidemiology and conservation
Associate Professor Lee Berger
Leads the One Health Research Group with Associate Professor Lee Skerratt. Expert in wildlife health, conservation, amphibian health and declines, chytridiomycosis expert.
Lee commenced her PhD in 1995, with the aim of diagnosing the cause of the mysterious amphibian declines that were occurring in protected areas of Queensland. She discovered chytridiomycosis, now recognised as the worst disease to impact biodiversity as it has caused hundreds of amphibian species to decline globally. In 2011 she was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship, and in 2018 was awarded the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist. Her research has enabled further discoveries on pathogenesis, distribution, disease ecology, diagnosis, conservation management and immunity resulting in over 100 publications, 10,000 citations and an H-index of 43.
Dr Laura Brannelly
Laura is an ARC DECRA Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne. Her DECRA research project focuses on the effects of disease on reproduction in frogs, specifically in species of conservation concern. She is aiming to understand multiple aspects of amphibian reproduction that are affected by disease, such as gamete production and viability, mating behaviors and offspring success. She hopes to be able to directly use the information generated from her research to further conservation efforts to protect Australia’s declining frog species.
Laura received her a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and Bachelor of Science in ecology and evolutionary biology from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2010. She went on to complete her Masters of Science in environmental biology from Tulane University in 2011 where she participated in a number of amphibian projects including clinical chemotherapy trials for treating Bd, studying non-amphibian hosts of the amphibian chytrid fungus, quantifying sub-lethal effects of disease, and determining best practice methods for marking amphibians.
Laura received her PhD at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland Australia in 2016. For her PhD research she explored the interactions between frogs, disease, and the management of critically endangered species. She explored the pathogenesis of disease on understudied and endangered species, as well as determining mechanisms of population persistence.
She completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh from 2016-2018, where she investigated the interactions between frogs, chytrid fungal disease, and the environment: specifically, how climate change impacts these relationships.
Laura’s research interests include amphibians, wildlife disease, endangered species, conservation, and chytridiomycosis. She is particularly interested in the mechanisms of population persistence for species declining due to disease, particularly with species and populations that have not developed an effective immune response. She is interested in the interactions between chytridiomycosis and amphibian reproduction. Laura is interested in directly combining academic research into management strategies for the protection of endangered species.
Anthony Waddle is a postgraduate research student in the One Health Research Group (OHRG) within the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Before beginning his PhD, Anthony worked on understanding the impacts of the amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis – Bd) in imperiled amphibians in the Mojave Desert, USA. His past work focused on the demography of Bd in the Mojave, assessing how Bd was shaping amphibian population adaptation, and trialing conservation interventions (e.g. immunizations).
After earning his B.S. and M.S. at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Anthony joined the OHRG where he is developing synthetic biology techniques (e.g. CRISPR) to elucidate immunological mechanisms that contribute to amphibian host resistance to Bd. In addition to his research endeavors, Anthony is fervent advocate for community outreach, speaking at schools, community centers, and as a volunteer lecturer for continuing education programs; he hopes to expand these efforts in his new community in Australia.
Rebecca is a PhD student at James Cook University, co-supervised by Dr Lee Berger and Dr Lee Skerratt at the University of Melbourne. Her research is focussed on the amphibian fungal disease chytridiomycosis. Rebecca hopes to find novels approaches to reduce the virulence of this disease. To do this she is investigating the use of interfering RNA to knockdown virulence genes, as well as viruses that could be used as biological control.
Before starting her PhD, Rebecca worked for many years as a research assistant, during which she specialised in testing chytrid fungi susceptibility to various disinfectants. Rebecca also is an experienced histologist, and maintains an interest in determining the age of amphibians using skeletochronological techniques.
Rebecca is passionate about amphibian conservation, and loves to learn new laboratory techniques.
Sieara is a PhD candidate in Medical and Molecular Sciences at James Cook University, supervised by Dr. Lee Berger, Dr. Alexandra Roberts, Dr. Lee Skerratt, and Dr. Diana Mendez. Her research project investigates the metabolites in frog skin that fight Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) infection, and examines if antioxidants are involved in Bd’s ability to evade host defences.
Sieara received a Bachelors of Science in Biology and a Bachelors of Arts in Spanish from Kansas State University. She has a Master’s of Science in Biological Sciences from California State University, and a Master’s of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida.
Sieara is interested in chytridiomycosis, amphibian and wildlife pathogens, molecular biology, and wildlife conservation. She uses molecular techniques to understand the mechanisms of host-pathogen interactions.
Adeline is a Masters of Science student at the University of Melbourne in Biosciences. She is supervised by Dr Matt West, Dr Lee Berger and Dr Laura Brannelly. Her masters research is focused on exploring the effects of heavy metals on the growth and survival of the chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). She is also looking for any potential synergistic/antagonistic interactions between heavy metals and temperature on Bd.
With many frog species readily found in polluted wetlands, it is possible that contaminants act to provide environmental refuges for frogs by limiting the prevalence of chytrid. Her project addresses this and aims to inform disease mitigation strategies by understanding how Bd grows in polluted environments.
Claytor SC, Gummer JPA, Grogan LF, Skerratt LF, Webb RJ, Brannelly LA, Berger L, Roberts AA. 2019. Susceptibility of frogs to chytridiomycosis correlates with increased levels of immunomodulatory serotonin in the skin. Cellular Microbiology. https://doi.org/10.1111/cmi.13089
Brannelly LA*, Ohmer MEB*, Saenz V, Richards-Zawacki CL. 2019. Effects of a shortened hydroperiod on larval development and post-metamorphic immune defenses in a temperate amphibian. Functional Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.13419. *authors contributed equally.
Brannelly LA, Ohmer MEB, Richards-Zawacki CL. 2019. Artificial reproduction using leuprolide acetate in the frog Rana pipiens. Herpetological Journal. 29: 125-130.
Kohli A, Brannelly LA, Ohmer MEB, Lindauer A, Richards-Zawacki CL, Rollins-Smith L, Voyles J. 2019. Disease and the drying pond: examining possible links between drought, immune function, and disease development in amphibians. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. 92(3):339-348.
Roberts AA, Robertson S, Webb RJ, Kosch TA, Glass B, Motti C, Berger L. Brannelly LA 2019. The efficacy and pharmacokinetics of terbinafine against the frog-killing fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). Medical Mycology. 57:204-214.
Berger, C. S., L. Berger, and L. F. Skerratt. 2019. Airborne lead dust concentration in Townsville, Queensland is associated with port activity and may contribute to estuarine sediment contamination. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 225:106257.
Bower, D. S., K. R. Lips, Y. Amepou, S. Richards, C. Dahl, E. Nagombi, M. Supuma, L. Dabek, R. A. Alford, L. Schwarzkopf, M. Ziembicki, J. N. Noro, A. Hamidy, G. R. Gillespie, L. Berger, C. Eisemberg, Y. Li, X. Liu, C. K. Jennings, B. Tjaturadi, A. Peters, A. K. Krockenberger, D. Nason, M. D. Kusrini, R. J. Webb, L. F. Skerratt, C. Banks, A. L. Mack, A. Georges, and S. Clulow. 2019. Island of opportunity: can New Guinea protect amphibians from a globally emerging pathogen? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 2057.
Esson, C., L. F. Skerratt, L. Berger, J. Malmsten, T. Strand, Å. Lundkvist, J. D. Järhult, J. Michaux, N. Mijiddorj, R. Bayrakçısmith, C. Mishra, and Ö. Johansson. 2019. Health and zoonotic Infections of snow leopards Panthera unica in the South Gobi desert of Mongolia. Infection Ecology & Epidemiology 9.
Bower DS, Brannelly LA, McDonald CA, Webb RJ, Greenspan SE, Vickers M, Gardner MG, Greenlees MJ. 2019. A review of the role of parasites in the ecology of reptiles and amphibians. Austral Ecology. 44(3):433-448.
Kosch TA, Silva CNS, Brannelly LA, Roberts AA, Quintin L, Berger L, Skerratt LF. 2019. Genetic potential for disease resistance in critically endangered frog decimated by chytridiomycosis. Animal Conservation. 22(3):238-250.
Scheele, B. C., F. Pasmans, L. F. Skerratt, L. Berger, A. Martel, W. Beukema, A. A. Acevedo, P. A. Burrowes, T. Carvalho, A. Catenazzi, I. De la Riva, M. C. Fisher, S. V Flechas, C. N. Foster, P. Frías-Álvarez, T. W. J. Garner, B. Gratwicke, J. M. Guayasamin, M. Hirschfeld, J. E. Kolby, T. A. Kosch, E. La Marca, D. B. Lindenmayer, K. R. Lips, A. V Longo, R. Maneyro, C. A. McDonald, J. Mendelson, P. Palacios-Rodriguez, G. Parra-Olea, C. L. Richards-Zawacki, M.-O. Rödel, S. M. Rovito, C. Soto-Azat, L. F. Toledo, J. Voyles, C. Weldon, S. M. Whitfield, M. Wilkinson, K. R. Zamudio, and S. Canessa. 2019. Amphibian fungal panzootic causes catastrophic and ongoing loss of biodiversity. Science 363:1459–1463.
Shima A,B, A. L., L. Berger, and L. F. Skerratt. 2019. Conservation and health of Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus lumholtzi). Australian Mammalogy 41:57–64.
Brannelly LA, Chatfield MWH, Sonn J, Robak M, Richards-Zawacki CL. 2018. Fungal infection has sublethal effects in a lowland subtropical amphibian population. BMC Ecology, 18:34.
Brannelly LA, Martin G, Llwelyn J, Skerratt LF, Berger L. 2018. Age and size dependent susceptibility to chytridiomycosis in the invasive cane toad (Rhinella marina). Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. 131(2):107-120.
Brannelly LA, Roberts AA, Skerratt LF, Berger L. 2018. Terminal transferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labelling (TUNEL) and caspase 3/7 assays to determine epidermal cell death in frogs with chytridiomycosis. Journal of Visualized Experiments. 135:e57345.
Brannelly LA, Clemann N, Skerratt LF, Webb RJ, Berger L, Scheele BC. 2018. Investigating community disease dynamics can lead to more effective conservation efforts. Animal Conservation. 21:108-109.
Brannelly LA, Webb RJ, Hunter DA, Clemann N, Howard K, Skerratt LF, Berger L, Scheele BC. 2018. Non-declining amphibians can be important reservoir hosts for amphibian chytrid fungus. Animal Conservation, 21: 91-101. Feature Paper.
Fisher, M. C., P. Ghosh, J. M. G. Shelton, K. Bates, L. Brookes, C. Wierzbicki, G. M. Rosa, R. A. Farrer, D. M. Aanensen, M. Alvarado-Rybak, A. Bataille, L. Berger, S. Böll, J. Bosch, F. C. Clare, E. A. Courtois, A. Crottini, A. A. Cunningham, T. M. Doherty-Bone, F. Gebresenbet, D. J. Gower, J. Höglund, T. Y. James, T. S. Jenkinson, T. A. Kosch, C. Lambertini, A. Laurila, C. F. Lin, A. Loyau, A. Martel, S. Meurling, C. Miaud, P. Minting, S. Ndriantsoa, S. J. O’Hanlon, F. Pasmans, T. Rakotonanahary, F. C. E. Rabemananjara, L. P. Ribeiro, D. S. Schmeller, B. R. Schmidt, L. Skerratt, F. Smith, C. Soto-Azat, G. Tessa, L. F. Toledo, A. Valenzuela-Sánchez, R. Verster, J. Vörös, B. Waldman, R. J. Webb, C. Weldon, E. Wombwell, K. R. Zamudio, J. E. Longcore, and T. W. J. Garner. 2018. Development and worldwide use of non-lethal, and minimal population-level impact, protocols for the isolation of amphibian chytrid fungi. Scientific Reports 8:1–9.
Grogan, L. F., S. D. Cashins, L. F. Skerratt, L. Berger, M. S. Mcfadden, P. Harlow, D. A. Hunter, B. C. Scheele, and J. Mulvenna. 2018. Evolution of resistance to chytridiomycosis is associated with a robust early immune response. Molecular Ecology 27:919–934.
Grogan, L. F., L. F. Skerratt, L. Berger, S. D. Cashins, R. D. Trengove, and J. P. A. Gummer. 2018. Chytridiomycosis causes catastrophic organism-wide metabolic dysregulation including profound failure of cellular energy pathways. Scientific Reports 8:8188.
Hoskin, C. J., H. B. Hines, R. J. Webb, L. F. Skerratt, and L. Berger. 2018. Naïve rainforest frogs on Cape York, Australia, are at risk of the introduction of amphibian chytridiomycosis disease. Australian Journal of Zoology 66:174–178.
Martin, G., C. Yanez-Arenas, C. Chen, R. K. Plowright, R. J. Webb, and L. F. Skerratt. 2018. Climate change could increase the geographic extent of hendra virus spillover risk. EcoHealth 15:509–525.
O’Hanlon, S. J., A. Rieux, R. A. Farrer, G. M. Rosa, B. Waldman, A. Bataille, T. A. Kosch, K. A. Murray, B. Brankovics, M. Fumagalli, M. D. Martin, N. Wales, M. Alvarado-Rybak, K. A. Bates, L. Berger, S. Böll, L. Brookes, F. Clare, E. A. Courtois, A. A. Cunningham, T. M. Doherty-Bone, P. Ghosh, D. J. Gower, W. E. Hintz, J. Höglund, T. S. Jenkinson, C.-F. Lin, A. Laurila, A. Loyau, A. Martel, S. Meurling, C. Miaud, P. Minting, F. Pasmans, D. S. Schmeller, B. R. Schmidt, J. M. G. Shelton, L. F. Skerratt, F. Smith, C. Soto-Azat, M. Spagnoletti, G. Tessa, L. F. Toledo, A. Valenzuela-Sánchez, R. Verster, J. Vörös, R. J. Webb, C. Wierzbicki, E. Wombwell, K. R. Zamudio, D. M. Aanensen, T. Y. James, M. T. P. Gilbert, C. Weldon, J. Bosch, F. Balloux, T. W. J. Garner, and M. C. Fisher. 2018. Recent Asian origin of chytrid fungi causing global amphibian declines. Science 360:621–627.
Shima, A., C. Constantinoiu, L. Johnson, and L. Skerratt. 2018. Echinococcus Granulosus Infection in Two Free-Ranging Lumholtz’sTree-Kangaroo (Dendrolagus lumholtzi) from the Atherton Tablelands, Queensland. Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease 3:47.
Smout, F., L. Skerratt, C. Johnson, J. Butler, and B. Congdon. 2018. Zoonotic Helminth Diseases in Dogs and Dingoes Utilising Shared Resources in an Australian Aboriginal Community. Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease 3:110.
Waddle, A., M. Sai, J. Levy, G. Rezaei, F. van Breukelen, and J. Jaeger. 2018. Systematic approach to isolating Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 127:243–247.
Brannelly LA, Roberts AA, Skerratt LF, Berger L. 2017. Epidermal cell death in frogs with chytridiomycosis. Peer J. 5:e2925.
Scheele BC, Skerratt LF, Grogan LF, Hunter DA, Clemann N, McFadden M, Newell D, Hoskin CJ, Gillespie GR, Heard GW, Brannelly LA, Roberts AA, Berger L. 2017. After the epidemic: ongoing declines, stabilizations and recoveries in amphibians afflicted by chytridiomycosis. Biological Conservation. 206:37-46.
Scheele BC, Hunter DA, Brannelly LA, Skerratt LF, Driscoll DA. 2017. Reservoir‐host amplification of disease impact in an endangered amphibian. Conservation Biology. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12830.
Kosch TA, Eimes JA, Didinger C, Brannelly LA, Waldman B, Berger L, Skerratt LF. 2017. Characterization of MHC class IA in the endangered southern corroboree frog. Immunogenetics. Doi: 10.1007/s00251-016-0965-3.
Jaeger, J. R., A. W. Waddle, R. Rivera, D. T. Harrison, S. Ellison, M. J. Forrest, V. T. Vredenburg, and F. Van Breukelen. 2017. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and the Decline and Survival of the Relict Leopard Frog. EcoHealth 14.
Martin, G., R. J. Webb, C. Chen, R. K. Plowright, and L. F. Skerratt. 2017. Microclimates Might Limit Indirect Spillover of the Bat Borne Zoonotic Hendra Virus. Microbial ecology 74:106–115.
Smout, F., L. Schrieber, R. Speare, and L. F. Skerratt. 2017. More bark than bite: Comparative studies are needed to determine the importance of canine zoonoses in Aboriginal communities. A critical review of published research. Zoonoses and Public Health 64:495–504.
Brannelly LA, Hunter DA, Skerratt LF, Scheele BC, Lenger D, McFadden MS, Harlow PS, Berger L. 2016. Chytrid infection and post-release fitness in the reintroduction of an endangered alpine tree frog. Animal Conservation. 19(2):153-162
Skerratt LF, Berger L, Clemann N, Hines HB, Hunter DA, Marantelli G, McFadden M, Newell DA, Philips A, Scheele BC, Brannelly LA, Speare R, Versteegen S, Cashins SD, West M. 2016. Priorities for management of chytridiomycosis in Australia: saving frogs from extinction. Wildlife Research. 43(2) 105-120
Brannelly LA, Webb R, Skerratt LF, Berger L. 2016. Amphibians with infectious disease increase their reproductive effort: evidence for the terminal investment hypothesis. Open Biology. 6(6): 150251.
Brannelly LA, Webb R, Skerratt LF, Berger L. 2016. Effects of chytridiomycosis on hematopoietic tissue in the spleen, kidney and bone marrow varies between three diverse amphibian species. Pathogens and Disease. 74(7): ftw069.
Grogan, L. F., A. D. Phillott, B. C. Scheele, L. Berger, S. D. Cashins, S. C. Bell, R. Puschendorf, and L. F. Skerratt. 2016. Endemicity of chytridiomycosis features pathogen overdispersion. Journal of Animal Ecology 85:806–816.
Adeline Chew won a research award!
Masters student Adeline Chew was awarded the Australia Society of Microbiology VIC Branch Summer Student Research Award 2020 for her project entitled “The effects of heavy metals on the growth rate of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis“. Adeline will be presenting the results of her research project at the ASM VIC Branch Nancy Millis Award Night in February. Congrats Adeline, awesome job!
Lee Skerratt: Saving species with a 2019 ARC Future Fellowship
Group leader and Associate Professor Lee Skerratt has been awarded a 2019 Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship that will aid his biotechnology research into disease immunity. The research aims to save dwindling frog populations while proving the value of synthetic biology in restoring threatened wildlife populations.
The case of the missing frogs
Is it too late to save them? The Australian interviewed OHRG leaders Lee Berger and Lee Skerratt to get some answers!
Chytrid is named the worst disease
In a new publication the OHRG and many international collaborators published in Science, the amphibian chytrid fungus is listed as the worst wildlife disease on record.
PM’s life scientist of the year
Lee Berger won the Frank Frenner life scientist of the year 2018
Science and the challenges of work/life balance
ARC Future Fellow Lee Berger has some work/life balance tricks