AU Sets Environmental Lecture Series on Frog Conservation Challenges in the Neotropics

AU Sets Environmental Lecture Series on Frog Conservation Challenges in the Neotropics

2/11/14 ASHLAND, Ohio – The third event in Ashland University’s Environmental Lecture Series this year will be a presentation by Dr. Matthew Venesky, visiting assistant professor of biology at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., who will speak on the topic of “Emerging infectious diseases of wildlife and their conservation challenges in the Neotropics.”

The lecture will be held Thursday, Feb. 20, at 7:30 p.m. in the Ronk Lecture Hall in the Dwight Schar College of Education. This event is free and open to the public. This year’s Environmental Lecture Series explores “Environmental and Human Health in Latin America,” with perspectives from experts in human ecology, policy and scientific study related to specific environmental issues.

Infectious diseases of humans and wildlife are increasing at an unprecedented rate. Amphibians, in particular, have experienced an unrivaled loss of biodiversity with approximately one-third of species threatened with extinction.

Although several factors contribute to amphibian declines, many declines and extinctions are linked to the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (“Bd”). The first Bd epidemic was documented in Latin America in 1998 and it resulted in the crash of the entire Panamanian amphibian community. Twenty-five years later, Bd is still prevalent and poses challenges to amphibian conservation efforts in Latin America.

Venesky will discuss some of the outstanding research topics in this host-pathogen system as they relate to climate change, biodiversity and acquired immunity. He will synthesize how answering these questions might be useful for managing Bd as well as other pathogenic fungi that have only recently been discovered.

A Pennsylvania native, Venesky obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Memphis in 2011 and spent two-and-a-half years at the University of South Florida as a postdoctoral research associate. Now, as assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Allegheny College, his research addresses fundamental and applied questions in the ecology of infectious diseases and he has been studying amphibians and their parasites for almost a decade. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and he has published more than 20 articles on amphibian biology/ecology, including recent articles in Nature Climate Change and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Environmental Lecture Series was established at Ashland University after the Environmental Science program was implemented in 1991-92. The lecture series was designed to support the Environmental Science program by allowing students, faculty and members of North Central Ohio communities to interact with leaders in environmental science and policy. Over the years, the lecture series has generated significant campus and community involvement and support. Recent lectures are archived for viewing at:

Current support for the lecture series is provided by a grant from the Lubrizol Foundation and additional support from Ashland University. Past series have been supported by AU and grants from the GTE Foundation and the Fran and Warren Rupp Foundation.

Ashland University, which has been ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###


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