Nina Bartling '13
I got to work in the field as we kept track of the demographic data of amphibians entering and leaving the pond. Everything was on track until the first week of my 10-week summer research program: We found that almost all of the amphibian larvae in the pond were dying of an emerging disease called ranavirus. By week two of that summer, we knew we had to completely change the focus of our study.
We spent the rest of the summer observing American toad tadpoles in the lab and sampling ponds upstream and downstream of Taylor-Ochs for more infected animals, all while maintaining our count data of amphibians in and out of the pond. In the end, we found that amphibians infected with the virus have extremely high rates of mortality, especially those that are still in the larval stage. The biggest take-home message from our research was that ranavirus is an extremely important player in global amphibian decline, it spreads easily through an environment, and no methods of population protection or viral control have yet been uncovered. Although this ranavirus research had not been in our original plans, I spent the fall of 2012 analyzing the data and writing my senior thesis about ranavirus. My work was incorporated into Dr. Homan's manuscript, which was published in the December 2013 issue of Herpetological Review. Our opportunity to be early researchers of ranavirus resulted in a groundbreaking project that is of great use to other herpetologists and also helped guide my future plans.
My research at Denison and time in the field with Rebecca and my research partner, Robert Stenger (DU’13), were life-changing experiences that motivated me to continue working in the field of wildlife management and conservation. This fall, I will be matriculating at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. I plan on following a wildlife medicine track, and hope to end up somewhere where I can make a difference in wildlife management and conservation. Whether I end up at The Wilds in Columbus or in the rain forest in another country, the passion, attention to detail, and flexibility that I gained from my research at Denison make me confident that I will be able to adapt to wherever my future work as a veterinarian takes me.