Randall Jiménez Quirós is a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian National Zoo’s Center for Conservation Genomics collaborating with the researchers, Dr. Carly Muletz-Wolz and Dr. Brian Gratwicke, along with other collaborators. He studies the skin defense in Appalachian salamanders against the chytrid pathogens Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and B. salamandrivorans. Particularly, he investigates how the host skin bacteria and peptides interact and influence the infection of these two pathogens in species that differ in chytrid susceptibility. He also studies the functional importance of host-secreted mucus on pathogen-killing ability to better understand pathogen resistance. Randall is a tropical biologist from Costa Rica with a master’s degree in wildlife conservation and management. He performed his doctoral studies at Ulm University in Germany. Over the past years, he has been working with the skin bacterial communities of endangered amphibians of Costa Rica. His work with amphibians seeks to provide important information that seeks to support amphibian conservation and management actions.
The silent killer fungus, Bd, was described by Smithsonian’s National Zoo veterinarians working with a scientist from the University of Maine (Longcore et al. 1999). This new fungus to science was found to cause the skin disease chytridiomycosis — which leads to a ‘heart-attack’ and death to frogs and salamanders. We now know that the killer fungus originated in Asia and that humans unintentionally spread it around the world causing dramatic declines and disappearances of many amphibians. The killer fungus threatens the survival of more than 500 species of amphibians across the globe. Bd is now known as one of the most destructive pathogens ever recorded in wild animals.