Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads


#SciFri: Free online Bsal course from EAZA Academy

A decade ago in 2013 when the discovery of the salamander chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans; Bsal) was published, my heart sank. What really scared me was the potential impact on wild newt and salamander populations in Europe, following the decline of fire salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) in the Netherlands. This motivated myself and a team of colleagues to crowdfund some studies in those vulnerable regions where fire salamanders occurred in Belgium, to try to establish whether or not they too were declining due to infections with Bsal or not. You can read about some of our efforts here. Thankfully though, things haven’t turned out to be the apocalypse we all feared, although we should still act with vigilance and caution when it comes to Bsal.

Therefore I was extremely happy when I found out about a free online course that the European Associations of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) Academy has put together on Bsal. One of the things that worried me most in those early days, and still does today, is that not everyone working in the field communicates with one another. Those working with freshwater fish, dragonflies, or other aquatic invertebrates may be completely oblivious to their own needs to maintain biosecurity between sites, due to the risk of spreading a disease that affects amphibians. This course provided by EAZA tries to bridge this gap in knowledge by providing information on Bsal, its epidemiology, the veterinary aspects, prevention and in-situ and ex-situ conservation challenges. Having gone through it myself, it is extremely accessible to everyone no matter whether you’re a professional conservationist, keen amateur, or somewhere in between.

As someone that is passionate about the conservation of amphibians, I recommend that anyone working in the outdoors take this freely available online course, which can be completed at your own pace. It will provide you with a great overview of Bsal, as well as the need for biosecurity which I hope will have a helpful benefit to how you conduct your own fieldwork. If you do complete the course, you’ll get a shiny certificate like mine below. The estimate provided by EAZA states that the course should take a minimum of 7 hours to complete, which you can spread over multiple sessions. You don’t need to complete it all in one go, if you don’t want to. If this sounds appealing to you, then you can sign up for the course using this form, and find more information here.

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