Scientists at the University of Tennessee hope to save North American salamanders from a contagious and fatal threat.

Two researchers within the UT Department of Forestry Wildlife and Fisheries are getting a $2.5 million grant to study a fungal pathogen that devours the skin of salamanders.

Thought to originate from Asia, Bsal is spreading throughout Europe, and scientists are now concerned of the fungus spreading to North America through international trade, according to a release.

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Matt Gray and Debra Miller along with their research partners, will study the epidemiology of Bsal in an effort to find ways to combat the fungus.

“With eastern North America as a global hotspot for salamander biodiversity, this research will allow science-based decisions to be made on Bsal response actions most likely to thwart an outbreak in the USA and elsewhere,” Gray indicates. “To our knowledge, Earth has never seen a wildlife disease outbreak like Bsal’s cousin – Bd – which has caused population declines globally in greater than 200 amphibian species and some species extinctions."

The Smokies are considered the salamander capital of the world.

More information about the UTIA NSF grant and other Bsal research performed by the UTIA Center for Wildlife Health can be found at ag.tennessee.edu/fwf/bsalproject.