Amphibian Decline and Human Disease Related

Human causes for amphibian decline and its relation to human disease were discussed by a visiting professor at The University of Georgia on Tuesday.

The ecology department hosted a seminar lead by Jason R. Rohr, a professor and Biologist from the University of South Florida, Tuesday afternoon.

The seminar was about how certain agricultural practices and climate change are related to amphibian decline and a disease suffered by people in regions of the southern hemisphere.

Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by infected parasites penetrating a person’s skin. The symptoms vary from pain to swelling of a cavity in the abdomen.

Rohr said that the unpredictable changes in temperature related to global climate change have allowed parasites to develop an advantage.

This advantage is likely because of their faster metabolism and reproduction rates.

The World Health Organization has ranked schistosomiasis as the second most socioeconomically devastating disease in the tropics and subtropics.

Amphibians also suffer, but when they contract the infection, it is called chytridiomycosis. It has different symptoms than schistosomiasis, including death.

Rohr said that he and his team studied how the use of atrazine, a pesticide banned in Europe, has been linked to an increase in schistosomiasis and chytridiomycosis.

Amphibian decline matters because there are 1700 similarities between frog and human genes and frogs have helped in medical research, Rohr said.

Frogs are important to food webs and ecosystems, and that they are developing an amphibian vaccination program to battle their decline.

In addition to efforts with amphibians, he and his team have been awarded funding to work in Africa to help prevent and combat schistosomiasis.

As world population increases, pesticide use could increase two to five times more, which could increase the disease in children and amphibians, Rohr said.

He and his team are looking for agriculture chemicals that can increase food production but not increase the risk of disease.

After the seminar, I had the chance to speak with some of the people who attended.

Bud Freeman, a member of the ecology department faculty, said that he attended to participate and to hear about the controversial use of atrazine.

Kelsey Morgan said, “It was definitely interesting learning about the effects that aren’t always obvious about chemicals and climate change.”



Group Discussion Filled Seats at Georgia Museum of Art

The Associate Curator of Education led February’s Artful Conversation about select pieces of abstract art at the Georgia Museum of Art on Wednesday.

People filled the half-circle of canvas-draped stools in front of an untitled work by [Corinne] Michael West.  Some came with sketch books and clip boards, ready to take notes once the discussion began.

Rather than lecture, Callan Steinmann, Associate Curator of Education, opened the floor for discussion about abstract works by West and Carl Holly. Steinmann encouraged attendees to contribute to the discussion and feel free to leave their seats to move closer to the art.

“I like them because they are driven by the group . . . It’s a lot of fun and little more informal,” Steinmann explained about why she enjoys the Artful Conversations.

Attendees did as she encouraged, leaning into each other as they discussed what the work might mean, leaning together to discuss the orientation of the work, freely asking questions and making comments.

One of the attendees expressed that the selected work by West had the shape of a motorcycle, and several others chimed in that they were thinking that too or that they could now see the motorcycle.

In addition to the motorcycle comments, the discussion ranged from Abstract Expressionism, feminism, sexism, the effects of war, philosophy and other ideas about what the work made them feel or think.

Many people got up throughout the discussion, not to leave, but to get a better view at what their peers were pointing out about the work, and at the half-way mark, Steinmann asked for everyone to swap sides and rows so that they could have a different experience with the work.

“I am always trying to educate my eyes. I’m not just interested in the who’s looking at it and how they act,” said Matt Beall, an Athens photographer, about why he enjoys the Artful Conversations.

Artful Conversations are free and open to the public. They are held once a month at the Georgia Museum of Art and are led by a different educator each month.

If you are interested in learning more, visit, call 706-542-4662 or stop by the museum’s front desk.