Oklahoma Infectious Disease Citizen Science Project

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Have you ever wanted to be a scientist? Or help a scientist make new discoveries? Join the Herpetology Department of the Sam Noble Museum in a brand-new citizen science project, where YOU become the scientist collecting real-world data!

What is Citizen Science? Citizen Science is an up and coming method of gathering scientific data collection by members of the general public, rather than traditional scientists. It is a great way to collect large quantities of data over a larger spatial scale than what can be collected by a couple of scientists. It also gives non-scientists new skills and an appreciation for nature. Citizen Scientists do require some training, in order to collect data in a standardized and consistent manner. The information contained in the linked pages will provide that information for you.

What is herpetology? Herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians. Reptiles can be easily described as scaled vertebrate animals with dry skin who lay hard-shelled eggs on land, such as alligators, turtles, lizards, and snakes. Amphibians are non-scaled vertebrate with moist, mucous-covered skin who lay jelly-like eggs in water, such as frogs, toads, and salamanders. Learn more about why amphibians are in decline globally!

What is chytrid? The word chytrid is short for chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease that infects the keratinized structures on amphibians, such as skin and tadpole mouthparts (keratin is also present in your hair, skin, and nails). There are two forms of virulent chytrid: Batrachochytrium dendrobatis (Bd) infects frogs and salamanders and Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bs or Bsal) infects only salamanders. This study will focus on frogs, because Bs has not yet been found in the US. Bd however, is found in every state in the US, but very little is known about how common the disease is among frogs in Oklahoma until we began our research program in 2015. Our most up-to-date results, are available online by Oklahoma county and species. You can also search online at Bd Maps to see where other researchers have found chytrid in Oklahoma, or anywhere in the world.

This is where you all come in! We can determine if a frog has chytrid by rubbing a swab, similar to a Q-tip, along certain places of their body and then testing for the presence of chytrid DNA. View this YouTube video on how to swab the frogs!

What will you get in the citizen science kit?

  • 10 pre-sterile, individually packaged cotton swabs
  • 10 pre-sterile, 1.5mL screwtop vials
  • Instructionsdatasheets, and permanent marker
  • Oklahoma frog identification guide

If you are an Oklahoma teacher with access to a local pond or stream, we encourage you to participate with your students. Request a kit and download the complete Citizen Science teacher packet, which contains lesson plan, sampling instructions, datasheets, student worksheets, and background information. A list of science standards met by this outreach activity is also available for download. Middle and High School teachers may also appreciate a slideshow to facilitate associated in-class lectures.

We really appreciate your willingness to participate in our Citizen Science screening for chytrid in Oklahoma, sponsored by the Herpetology Department of the Sam Noble Museum. Fill out the attached form and send it to Collection Manager, Jessa Watters (jwatters@ou.edu), to request your kit today!

Now accepting applications for the 2017 Spring season!!

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Check out our results from 2016. Have we tested near your school?

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The teenage YouTube channel, Alec in WILDland, shares our research via an explanation and demonstration by citizen science participant, Derek Bateman.  We encourage you to view the entire episode, but our project is highlighted from approximately 14:12 to 20:42.  View the episode here.

Updated 2/13/17