In 2008, the golden frog was declared extinct in the wild, but not before it made a serious impact on Dr. Andrew Tucker.
Andrew, the Conservancy’s Great Lakes aquatic invasive species applied ecologist, was part of Project Golden Frog a conservation initiative designed to study and protect declining populations of the Panamanian golden frog. During his undergraduate years, he had the opportunity to travel to Panama, find golden frogs, and collect data to help the team understand what made each population of golden frogs unique. Sadly, the golden frog was declared extinct in the wild in 2008, wiped out by a fungus that has killed amphibians all over the world.
“The golden frog still survives in zoos and there is hope that it will one day be reintroduced in the wild, but that experience helped me to realize the importance and beauty of each and every species. I wanted to be involved in work to help preserve biological diversity,” Andrew explained.
Andrew spent the majority of his academic career studying aquatic sciences, including the effects of oil spills on marine life, and assessing the role of ultraviolet radiation in mediating warm water fish invasions in Lake Tahoe. He received his PhD from Miami University, and spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow there.
Arriving at the Conservancy directly from his fellowship, today Andrew works primarily on eDNA surveillance projects in the Great Lakes. He also devotes part of his time to the Conservancy’s Grand Traverse Bay spawning reef predator control project and organisms in trade risk assessment project. Together, these projects help protect the Great Lakes against aquatic invasive species, and give our native fisheries a much needed boost. Furthermore, it’s generating the kind of science that can inform policies and management practices around the region.
“Our eDNA surveillance work is resulting in new information about the distribution of Eurasian ruffe in the Great Lakes,” Tucker said. “These results have given us the opportunity to contribute to a Eurasian ruffe response plan through the International Joint Commission’s ANNEX 6 working group. I’d like to continue to contribute to that response plan so that we can put in place comprehensive strategies for preventing the spread of ruffe within and out of the Great Lakes.”
“I would also like to see our risk assessment and eDNA surveillance work on the Erie Canal (which connects the Great Lakes to the Hudson River and Lake Champlain) translate into management actions to prevent the spread of AIS through that waterway,” he added.
No matter where he’s working, Andrew’s focus on the prevention, surveillance, and control of aquatic invasive species play a key role in protecting the biodiversity of the Great Lakes—just as he set out to do after he completed his work with Project Golden Frog.