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Brunner Lab News

A fond farewell and a happy hello

We in the BrunnerLab wish Madelyn Kirsch the best as she starts graduate school at Oklahoma in the Siler lab (where Kai Wang went, some years back). She is thrilled to get to combine the dissection, extraction, and qPCR skillz she developed in my lab (thanks for busting through all those samples, Madelyn!) and her deep and unflagging interest in amphibians, especially salamanders, in her research. Good luck, Madelyn!

We are also thrilled to welcome Bob Pearhill to the lab! Bob comes to us from Carrol College, where he was involved in Bd and WNV research, via a stint helping run clinical trials in Seattle. He seems up for anything, so we’ll undoubtedly get him helping out on numerous things while he sorts out his own research directions. Welcome to the fray, Bob!

Two new publications out!

I’m pleased (and relieved) to see two manuscripts become available.

The first is a book chapter in Hurst’s Studies in Viral Ecology written with V. Greg Chinchar and Amanda Duffus. It summarizes much of what we know about ranavirus in amphibians, plus what we know about some others, especially amphibian herpes viruses (e.g., Lucke’s Tumor herpesvirus). I learned a lot in reading what Greg and Amanda wrote. I hope you get something out of it, too. Please email me for a copy if you’re interested.

The second is the last contribution to a special issue of FACETS on ranaviruses, stemming from the last International Ranavirus Symposium. It summarizes what we’ve found in terms of trends in the Global Ranavirus Reporting System (TL;DR: most of what we know come from amphibians in N.A., Europe, and SE Asia; we know little about ranaviruses in reptiles and shockingly little from fishes, given their _huge_ diversity). Strange thing: right after we submitted for review the original GRRS went down and the kind folks at EcoHealth Alliance who had built it for us were busy with other things (something or other about a pandemic?), so we had to rebuild it from scratch with a downloaded version. Learned a lot about Shiny apps in the process. The link is and from there you can find the other contributions to that issue.


Paper on clean aquatics trade published

On sabbatical, and thanks to Christian Yarber’s M.S. thesis work, I was puzzling through how one could detect pathogens in the huge trade of aquatic animals. I ended up sorting out the statistical side of the question in this new manuscript:

Brunner, J. L. 2020. Pooled samples and eDNA-based detection can facilitate the “clean trade” of aquatic animals. Scientific Reports 10:10280.

I has generated a little bit of press, too, which is fun, but I am hoping that it generates interest from the pet industry, USFWS, and others interested in minimizing the risk of pathogen emergence and spillover.

Environmental DNA detection could cut pathogens in pet trade


Emily Hall’s last chapter on salt and susceptibility published!

This is a neat series of studies that collectively suggest that the stress-susceptibility hypothesis—chronic physiological stressors can be immunocompromising and lead to more and more deadly epidemics—works, but not exactly in the way we’d expected. It is also one of very few examples where all of the links in the logic are spelled out. Congratulations Emily! (Note: Emily is now a Postdoc with Louis Rollins-Smith at Vanderbilt.)

Emily M. Hall, Jesse L. Brunner, Brandon Hutzenbiler and Erica J. Crespi (2020) Salinity stress increases the severity of ranavirus epidemics in amphibian populations. Proc. R. Soc. B.28720200062

Great Bsal symposium at TWS/AFS conference in Reno

I was fortunate to participate in a great day-long symposium on Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) at The Wildlife Society / American Fisheries Society conference in Reno, Nevada last week. It was organized by Matt Gray and Jamie Voyles and featured a lot of recent results on susceptibility, microbial and immune defenses, and even mathematical models of Bsal transmission. Very cool! Thanks Matt and Jamie!

I presented on the potential for using eDNA to screen whole shipments of animals for Bsal or other pathogens. Now I just need to submit the paper!

Our work featured in Washington State Magazine!

Our research on amphibian disease (detection, stress and susceptibility and so on) as well as that of our collaborators (Erica Crespi, Caren Goldberg, Allan Pessier, Jonah Piovia-Scott) is featured in an article in Washington State Magazine. Thanks to Rebecca Phillips for both covering such an important topic and writing such a nice piece!

[Let me note that the graduate students involved in this work are not mentioned by name, so let me highlight that Christian Yarber is working on the eDNA-based detection of Bsal in trade and Erin Keller, as well as undergraduate Madelyn Kirsch, have been working very hard on the stress-susceptibility hypothesis with ranavirus and wood frogs. Thank you!!!]

Where have all the frogs gone?

Paper on Ranavirus dynamics in bullfrogs published

It has been years in the works, but we finally published a paper describing the dynamics of ranavirus infections in bullfrogs (mostly tadpoles) and detection efficiencies with non-lethal methods. This work was supported by the Association of Zoo & Aquariums and (funds provided by the Disney Conservation Fund) and a Zoological Medicine & Wildlife Health Research Grant from the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians. Thanks to both of them! This work also involved numerous undergraduates, especially Anjulie Olson and Jeremy Rice! Thanks you two!

Brunner, J., A. Olson, J. Rice, S. Meiners, S. Le, J. Cundiff, C. Goldberg, and A. Pessier. 2019. Ranavirus infection dynamics and shedding in American bullfrogs: consequences for spread and detection in trade. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 135:135-150.

Christina Thomas graduates & has first paper in press!

Christina Thomas successfully defended her thesis this July after her first year of Vet School. I know it was a challenge switching gears and getting back into the tick literature after a year of crammer her brain with veterinary medicine. She did a nice job. Congratulations!

Also, her thesis work, with some additional data from Emily Burton, both funded by our DoD SERDP grant with Rick Ostfeld and colleagues, was recently accepted for publication. The citation at present is:

Thomas, C. E., E. S. Burton, and J. L. Brunner. 2019. Environmental drivers of wuesting activity of juvenile black-legged ticks (Acari: Ixodidae): temperature, desiccation risk, and diel cycles. Journal of Medical Entomology (link to abstract:

New model of within host ranavirus dynamics published!

This was a fun project with Joe Mihaljevic (NAU) and Amy Greer (Guelph, formerly in the Collins lab with me) where we put together simple models of viral growth and an immune response and fit them to data on viral titers in bullfrog tadpoles collected over time. (The data paper is still in review.) I have been wanting to model these dynamics for years, but lacked the skill set to do it well, so it was a real pleasure to see this come together.

It is part of a special issue, “Family Iridoviridae: Molecular and Ecological Studies of a Family Infecting Invertebrates and Ectothermic Vertebrates” in Viruses

Mitch’s paper on scavengers is published!

The paper from Mitch Le Sage’s M.S. thesis is now available online. It’s a nice set of studies, done with the help of Bailey Towey, looking at how scavenging invertebrates remove carcasses and thus can prevent pathogen transmission. Plus, pretty figures. Nice one, Mitch!


Le Sage, M. J., B. D. Towey, and J. L. Brunner. 2019. Do scavengers prevent or promote disease transmission? The effect of invertebrate scavenging on Ranavirus transmission. Functional Ecology