Is it really the end?
I can’t believe it is getting to the end of my time here in Madagascar. 7 weeks seemed so long on the first day but it went by with a blink of the eye. I spent our final days sampling frogs at the Vohimana reserve and the Mitsinjo Forest. In my mind, I thought I had seen enough frogs but when we caught some Boophis albilabris at Vohimana and five Spinomantis aglavai in Mitsinjo forest, it was quite a treat!
Sampling for this trip was completed on Feb 10th and we have successfully collected over 500 samples for probiotics from over 90 species of frogs. I couldn’t be happier with the efforts of this trip!
The last couple of days I have been having meetings in Tana with representatives from the Department of Forestry, the Cellule d’Urgence Chytride, Durrell, MNP, Conservation International, Ambatovy, Veterninary Sciences and Animal Biology Department of the University of Tana to discuss our collaborative initiative to work toward finding effective probiotics for Malagasy amphibians. On the first day, we discussed the background about Bd, the killer amphibian fungus, and I also presented on our proactive plan for conservation of amphibians using probiotics. We showed the group here the preliminary results from the laboratory work in the USA – showing that we have 7 bacterial isolates that can inhibit Bd by at least 95%. The afternoon was filled with discussions about the next steps and how we can work together to rapidly identify effective probiotics. It was an exhausting but successful day!
On day 2, we spent the day at the University, and I demonstrated for the stakeholders here the methods of the activities we have been doing in the USA, including bacteria culturing and DNA extraction, and presented a tutorial on the methods of qPCR. We also toured some of the labs to determine how we can build capacity here in Madagascar for isolating probiotic bacteria.
On the third and final day we were joined by another US researcher Jonathan Kolby who will be working with the Cellule d’Urgence Chytride to sample Bd in Madagascar. We finalized our discussion of probiotics and discussed that if and when Bd arrived what are the best ways to rapidly respond and conserve Malagasy frogs. These meetings with the government were most productive and encouraging!
On Monday, I will be on a plane back to the States. A few days ago I would have said I was ready to return from the grueling field work…But already I feel the call of the jungle and frogs that is beckoning me to stay. I can’t wait to return on our next trip to continue sampling and building capacity here in Madagascar to save the frogs!
Thanks to all that have made my trip possible: Faly Rabemananjara and the Cellule d'Urgence, Devin Edmonds and Association MITSINJO, Nirhy Rabibisia and Franco Andreone from ASG-Madagascar, DGF, MNP, ASA, Universite d' Antananarivo and our student assistant- Serge Ndriantsoa, Che Weldon from North-West University, Miguel Vences from TU-Braunschweig, Reid Harris from James Madison University, and our grant supporters - Mohamed bin Zayed Conservation Fund and the Chester Zoo - and the private donors who have supported by FrogProbiotics.org.
While it is the end of quite an amazing field season, it is really only the beginning of our collaborative effort to develop effective frog probiotics!
Working to save the frogs,