Friday, March 23, 2012

Dr. Marc Hayes, Integral Bd Research, & Herp Photography

Ever wonder how herpetologists got started in their professions or the current research their performing? Read on to get some insight into the life of Dr. Marc Hayes, the Oregon spotted frog, and how photography can play a part in furthering herp research.
Jade Tree Frog (Rhacophorus dulitensis) - Sabah, Borneo

How did you first become interested in reptiles/amphibians?

Dr. Marc Hayes: Walking ephemeral streams checking for breeding Anopheles mosquitoes on algal mats as an entomologist for the Goleta Valley and Carpinteria Mosquito Abatement Districts in Santa Barbara County, California.

Were your parents or friends influential in your decision to go into herpetology as a profession?

No, but they always encouraged me to follow my interests in the biological arena. I began actually in Marine Biology and got a Bachelors degree in Marine Biology with [an] Entomology Minor, which led to my first job with the Mosquito Abatement District. My reason for trying Marine Biology was the influence of my mother's mother, who is French, I am first generation American; my mother was a war bride. In any case, my grandmother has a rather strong personality and she wrote Jacques Cousteau several times indicating I wanted to be a Marine Biologist; of course, that was her idea, not mine. In any case, I tried Marine Biology for awhile, and liked it, but it was just not my passion as much as it was my grandmother's. I was fairly interested in Entomology for awhile, but the herps really caught me.

What led your interests towards amphibian conservation specifically?

Seeing the loss of habitat for amphibians in California in the 1970s and rapid development eliminating or degrading habitat.

However, among herps, I was originally interested in snake conservation, but it was difficult to cuItivate an interest in snake conservation in the 1970s, and I saw the early handwriting on the wall with amphibian problems and began working on ranid frogs that I knew would become at risk species; that panned out faster than I ever imagined.

Where is your favorite herping spot in the world?

The Great Basin of Oregon

Is there any herp that still gives you chills and sends your excitement levels through the roof when you spot it?

California Kingsnake

We all have animals we would love to find in nature, what herp is at the top of your list to find in the wild?

Bushmaster (Lachesis stenophyrs) - Costa Rica

Is there any country/area that is at the top of your list to visit still? Why?

Borneo-Sarawak - because there is still much unexplored area there herpwise.
Brown Bullfrog (Kaloula baleata) - Sabah, Borneo

Aside from specimens for study, do you keep any herps as personal pets? If so, what species and any favorites?

Not any more, I prefer to see them in the wild. Historically, I kept as many as 25 different snakes, but it takes a lot of care if you are going to do it right, which I have always viewed as a must. Now, I take great pleasure in doing macrophotography of herps.

Could you share any crazy herping stories?

Got bit by a green palm viper in Costa Rica back in 1983. I was measuring a juvenile that I hand pinned on the table. Its head slipped out from under the pin because I was trying to hold it down too delicately. I did not pull my hand away fast enough and it struck me on the tip of the index finger. When I pulled away, I pulled the fang out of its mouth and ended staring at the fang for a few seconds. The tip of the fang [had] hit a blood vessel and I could see the blood move up through the venom canal in the translucent fang (it was a very small snake – roughly 200 mm snout-to-vent). Anyway, that made be realize it was a dry bite, but I nevertheless sucked on it for awhile and watched it carefully over the next few hours; fortunately, nothing happened.

Your known for your work with Washington State’s declining amphibian populations, what has been your greatest achievement (to date) towards amphibian conservation?

Finishing a 150+ page literature review on tailed frogs (genus Ascaphus), which is in the review process as we speak.

If you weren’t a herpetologist, what would you be doing professionally?

I would be a hydrologist because stream systems fascinate me.

What is the number one conservation threat to Washinton’s endangered amphibians – over-collection, pollution, global warming, Bd, invasives? Why?

Habitat loss and degradation related to human activities of diverse kinds, because humans are a historically and still growing impact that will not be reversed until the human population size shows a reversing trend.

In a 2010 study you carried out on the Oregon Spotted Frog (Rana pretiosa), you found that your exposed specimens recovered from the Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) fungus. Do you believe the species may hold a key to preventing Bd in other amphibian populations?

Not clear, some species are resistant, others are not, that situation is largely genetically based. Oregon spotted frog resistance appears to be related to have some unique skin peptides, one of which is not shared with any other frog species (at least known to date). How that might contribute to making other species resistant is unclear with modification of the genome of the susceptible frogs to include the coding for the resistant peptide. Technology has the potential to do this, but there are complications to actually effecting it in frogs.

What would a cure to Bd mean in the herpetological world?

Wonderful for the susceptible species. A lot of the spread of Bd, however, is via the pet trade and Bd prophys [prophylactics] are available, so this is a great way to cut down on spread if you can get pet trade folks interested enough to do it. It would also cut down on captive animal losses considerably saving dealers considerable $$.

What’s the best avenue people can help your conservation efforts (donation links, volunteering, becoming part of the Pacific Rivers Council, etc)?

I do not think there is any absolute best way, and folks can contribute in ways that their means allow them to. However, education is very high up there among better ways. People cannot be interested in what they do not know about; and there are a lot of folks out there that are ignorant of the biological riches of this earth.

I have a few friends currently doing amphibian and Bd research abroad in Australia and Guyana for PhDs, any advice for them? Or students looking to get into the herpetological research profession?

Choose a project you can be passionate about and that will never feel like a drudge, co-operate with folks willing to share equally, and do as much as you can without burning yourself out (you only live so long).

Do you think the increase of interest in recent years in the herp-keeping hobby has helped or hindered reptile & amphibian conservation?

I think it has helped enormously. Many, if not most herp hobbyists have a really [strong] interest in taking the best care of their charges, which has greatly improved the quality of care for many hard to keep species. Further, quality captive breeding reduces the need to collect in the wild. Academics and others can learn a lot from the pet hobbyists and vice versa, they just have to be tolerant of their respective directions.

If I need a US amphibian species identified, whom do I turn to?

There is a Professional Herpetologist blog linked to Facebook that trades ID info all over, it is global, not just US.

Anything else you’d like to share about you or your research?

You must come up with these questions in your sleep. I recently got into wildlife camera work that either takes video footage or stills at almost any frequency of resolution one would want. We tried it first by putting cameras on the first Oregon spotted frog egg mass lay-site we have been monitoring for several years (here, you have to understand that the species lays communally). One day out, at a frame [capture rate of] every 30 seconds resolution we got gorgeous shots of two ovipositional sequences, and I got completely sucked into it. Herp folks using this will revolutionize natural history knowledge of diverse herp species

Leaf Toad(Bufo margaritifer) - Peruvian Amazon

Campbell's Rainforest Toad (Bufo campbelli) - Belize

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