Conservation through Computation: Using Modeling and Simulation to find Methods to Save Endangered Amphibians

Brian Drawert
Department of Computer Science
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California, USA


Recent outbreaks of chytridiomycosis, the disease of amphibians caused by the fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, have contributed to the worldwide decline and extinction of populations of numerous amphibian species. In particular we have observed invasion of this pathogen and subsequent local extinction of the mountain yellow-legged frog, Rana sierrae. A number of attempts have been made to save frog populations from being wiped out, including anti-fungal treatments, and reduction fungal spores in the environment. However, These potential conservation strategies, tend to be labor-intensive and expensive, and mostly unsuccessful.

To guide our conservation efforts and elucidate the situations in which these strategies have the potential to be effective. We utilize mathematical modeling and stochastic computation, coupled with a large scale parameter search, to effectively explore the dynamical space of this epidemiological system. Our hope is that the lessons learned in this study will not only allow us to prevent the worldwide extinctions of many species of amphibians, but will help us understand and therefor combat all fungal pathogens.