Research interests in Puerto Rico:
Amphibians are an example of a vertebrate class globally threatened by chytridiomycosis, a disease caused by a chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (=Bd). Although some species have persisted after epidemic outbreaks, they remain vulnerable under enzootic conditions. In the past several years, we have studied the geographic distribution of this fungus in Puerto Rico, and the variation in prevalence among species, populations, ontogenetic stages, localities and times of the year (see publications).
At this point we are interested in investigating what allows our terrestrial species to persist in spite of Bd , when other species die resulting in population extirpations and/or species extinctions? In order to do this, we use a multi-level eco-immunology approach from the organisms (the frogs) in their environment, to ex situ controlled experiments, molecular laboratory work to diagnose pathogen infection, asses immune response, and characterize host skin microbiome in a seasonal environment.
Hurricane Maria Effects: As of December 2017 when we were finally able to return to our study sites at El Yunque and see the disastrous effect the hurricane had on the forest canopy, we have dedicated a lot of time to study how the hurricane has affected Eleutherodactylus frogs. We are interested in collecting data to describe the effect on the abundance, population structure, habitat use, and reproductive habits of frogs in a previously well studied area. Results on part of this work have now been recently published.
PI´s: Ignacio De la Riva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC, Spain) and Patricia A. Burrowes, (UPR), with collaborators: Letty Afuang, University of The Philippines. Rafe Brown, University of Kansas, and Carlos Navas, University of Sao Paulo. The main objective of this project is to identify key factors that may drive survival or extinction of amphibians in the tropics. To achieve this we are conducting historical comparisons of the same amphibian community (time: in La Planada Colombia), and studying the current responses of distantly related species with similar ecological adaptations across continents (space: Philippines and Puerto Rico).