Chytrid Hack

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal

Yesterday, I spent the day outside the city at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, located on a 3,200 acre campus in Front Royal, Virginia.  What a lovely drive (against DC traffic) to engage in an all-day Chytrid Hack Design Session, co-hosted by Alex Dehgan’s new Conservation X Labs and the Smithsonian folks. What a gorgeous campus.
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal
Frog image from Amphibian Ark websiteWhy a Chytrid Hack? Chytridiomycosis is a unique and deadly disease, wiping out over 100 amphibian species in the last few years, threatening up to a third to half of all remaining amphibian species. The chytrid fungi infects the skin and leads to cardiac arrest. Amphibian chytrid has only been recently discovered, and in now in more than in 36 U.S. states and 40 countries. Fungal pathogens, such as chytrid, represent an increasing threat to wildlife. Conservation X Labs brought us all together Friday to talk about open innovation opportunities to crowd source solutions through citizen science, hackathons, or prizes and challenge competitions.

Chytrid Hack: Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Chytrid Hack: Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Representatives came from around the US: USAID, EPA, Gates Foundation, Global Green Growth Initiative, Arpa-E, Woodrow Wilson International Center, Archipelago Consulting, Singularity University, James Madison University, University of South Florida, Ampibian Survival Institute, Wildlife Conservation Society, Penn State, University of Colorado, and more. We spent the day sorting through issues and barriers, then worked in teams to craft a set of options for going forward.


I learned more than I ever thought I needed to know about frogs in one day. I have a new appreciation for the complexity of the issues around biodiversity and conservation. The Smithsonian Institute is committed to conservation of endangered species. We even had an opportunity to see species that are extinct in the wild, including the Micronesian Kingfisher, Guam Rail, and two mating Bali Mynah.

Micronesian Kingfisher

Micronesian Kingfisher: extinct in the wild.

Bali Mynah

Mating Bali Mynah: extinct in the wild

What an awesome day to engage with leaders in the field who are looking for open source solutions. Thanks Alex for inviting me!


Collins, J.P. 2013. History, novelty, and emergence of an infectious amphibian disease. PNAS 110 (23): 9193-9194

Rosenblum, E. et al. 2013. Complex history of the amphibian-killing chytrid fungus revealed with genome resequencing data. PNAS 110 (23): 9385-9390

Rosenblum, E. et. al. 2010. The Deadly Chytrid Fungus: A Story of an Emerging Pathogen. PLOS Pathogens 6:1 (e1000550).

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Filed under conservation, Open Source

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