UT Wildlife Researcher Named as Team Co-Chair

Dead Wood Frog Tadpole, photo by S. Smith

​When the disease emerges, ranavirus can kill more than 200,000 tadpoles in 24 hours. This image features a diseased wood frog tadpole. Photo by S. Smith, used by permission. Download image

PARC logo.


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A researcher with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture has been named as co-chair of a new team of experts combating the spread of emerging diseases in North American amphibians and reptiles. Dr. Matt Gray, with the UTIA Center for Wildlife Health, will oversee the Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) disease task team with Dr. Matt Allender of the University of Illinois. The team includes members from government agencies, private organizations, universities and zoos. 
Gray says that while White Nose Syndrome in bats has garnered a lot of attention nationally, native herpetofauna frogs, salamanders, snakes, lizards, and turtles – are in trouble, too.  “Viruses, fungi, protozoans, bacteria, and parasites are finding their way into herpetofauna populations native to North America, and the exotic invaders are having negative effects on some of the most imperiled animals on the globe,” said Gray. “There is clear evidence that pathogens are capable of causing declines in herpetofaunal populations, and in some cases, species extinctions.”
To combat the problem, PARC recently formed a new disease task team made up of biologists, veterinarians, and wildlife managers from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Their mission is to facilitate and guide communication, collaboration and responses to outbreaks of herpetofaunal diseases. 

“We have the tools to respond quickly to herpetofaunal disease outbreaks; however, to be efficient and effective, we need coordination of those efforts,” said Gray. His co-chair Dr. Matt Allender continues, “Ensuring the health of herpetofaunal populations requires an integrated response and management plan that combines epidemiological knowledge, pathogen surveillance, population monitoring, biomedical diagnostics and intervention strategies. This team will connect the critical pieces to make this happen.”
Allender completed his residency in Zoological Medicine at the UT College of Veterinary Medicine.

The team is already working to coordinate and respond to a deadly fungus (Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, Bsal) that is killing salamanders in Europe, but that is not yet believed to be present in the U.S.  Task team member Dr. Dede Olson of the U.S. Forest Service, explains: “In only a couple months since our formation, the team has made several large steps at organizing coordinated efforts to look for Bsal in wild and captive populations of amphibians. Ultimately, we hope to develop a national strategic plan that includes guidance on strategies for Bsal surveillance, and what should be done if it is detected in the wild or captivity.” 

For more information on the team’s mission and activities, please visit the PARC Disease Task Team online at the PARC website:

The UT Institute of Agriculture provides instruction, research and outreach through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch, including its system of 10 research and education centers, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.


Dr. Matthew J. Gray, UTIA Center for Wildlife Health, 865-974-2740,
Dr. Matthew C. Allender, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, 217-265-0320, mcallend@Illinois.edu