Research projects to focus on genomic tools for amphibian conservation


Led by Morris Animal Foundation and Revive & Restore, these efforts are a first step toward species preservation and demonstrate genomics in action

Morris Animal Foundation and Revive & Restore are funding 5 new projects to create genomic tools for amphibian conservation. Amphibians have lived on the planet for over 300 million years, however, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently estimates at least one-third of known amphibian species are threatened with extinction.1

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kuritafsheen /

“Amphibian populations are declining at an alarming rate around the world,” said Kathy Tietje, PhD, MBA, chief program officer at Morris Animal Foundation, in an organizational release.1 “These newly funded projects will leverage advanced genomic approaches to create new conservation strategies.”

Threats to the amphibian population include habitat loss and degradation, and the infectious disease chytridiomycosis. Genetic rescue technologies have served as a key component for current and future recovery efforts.

“Amphibians face monumental conservation challenges, and we need new tools to help bring these species back from the brink,” said Bridget Baumgartner, PhD, BSc, director of research & development at Revive & Restore, in the release. “The selected projects have important conservation applications today, and lay the foundation for future genomic technologies that can help rescue amphibian populations.”

The selected projects are part of the Wild Genomes program, an initiative to create applied genomics tools for wildlife conservation. To address amphibians, Morris Animal Foundation and Revive & Restore developed a special call for Wild Genomes proposals centered on amphibian species. Over 30 proposals from around the globe were submitted for funding consideration and the projects were selected for ecological significance, strategic conservation value, and/or evolutionary significance.1

Genomic tools, (eg, genome sequencing, cell culturing and biobanking) are standard practice in agriculture and human medicine. However, these technologies have rarely been applied in wildlife conservation. With their portfolio of Wild Genomes projects, Morris Animal Foundation and Revive & Restore help introduce conservation biologists to genomic tools and display their potential for the protection and restoration of wildlife. Morris Animal Foundation will fund 2 of the projects while Revive & Restore will fund 3. The projects are slated to begin this year.

Morris Animal Foundation grant recipients and their topics include1:

  • David Weisrock, MS, PhD, University of Kentucky - Use a top-down genomic approach to develop a cost-effective molecular toolkit for the conservation of an endangered newt (Laotriton laoensis).
  • Andrea Schreier, PhD, University of California, Davis - Enable rapid field detection of the amphibian fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis using a CRISPR-based SHERLOCK assay.

Revive & Restore grant recipients and their topics include1:

  • Danté Fenolio, MS, PhD, San Antonio Zoo Center for Conservation and Research - Complete a reference genome for the Chile Mountains false toad (Telmatobufo venustus) to help develop a national conservation plan for this species and other false toads endemic to Chile.
  • Tao T. Nguyen, PhD, Institute of Genome Research, Hanoi, Vietnam - Sequence the unusually large and complex genome of the Vietnamese crocodile newt (Tylototriton vietnamensis) to provide a resource for scientists and inform conservation of the species.
  • Sarah Fitzpatrick, PhD, Michigan State University - Develop a reference genome for the Andean Jambato harlequin frog (Atelopus ignescens) to characterize a recent genetic bottleneck and improve recovery of a species once thought to be extinct.


Saving declining amphibians through genetics - newly funded Morris Animal Foundation and Revive & Restore projects lay the foundation for genomic approaches to amphibian conservation. News release. Morris Animal Foundation. April 11, 2023. Accessed April 12, 2023.

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