Department Chair

Daniel L. Potts, Ph.D., Chair and Associate Professor of Biology

Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

Biology, M.A.


Biology Department


Amy M. McMillan, Ph.D., Professor of Biology, Honors Program Director

First Reader

Amy M. McMillan, Ph.D., Professor of Biology, Honors Program Director

Second Reader

Christopher M. Pennuto, Ph.D. Professor of Biology

Third Reader

Robert J. Warren II, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology


Researchers and managers commonly apply captive-raising and reintroductions of animals to offset losses due to worldwide amphibian declines. Recent declines in the Eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) have resulted in several reintroductions that have had little success. There is evidence that chytridiomycosis (chytrid), a disease caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), may negatively affect hellbenders post-release. Further, excessive post-release movement may result in movement away from suitable habitat and increased risk of predation which can have negative effects on the survival of released hellbenders. Caging captive-raised animals can be effective for limiting excessive post-release movement. This study tested a new chytrid vaccine and release method involving a new temporary cage design. Twenty captive-raised hellbenders were released into a stream in the Allegheny River drainage in June 2017. Half of these hellbenders were vaccinated. Five vaccinated and five unvaccinated hellbenders were released into cages that were removed in September 2017. The other half (five vaccinated, five unvaccinated) were released directly into the stream. Hellbenders were located daily using radio telemetry and tested for Bd weekly for the remainder of the study period. Overall, the 118-day study resulted in 30% survival. The vaccine was unsuccessful; all hellbenders tested positive for Bd at some point during the summer. After cage removal, caged hellbenders moved as much as uncaged, but this caging method may have contributed to greater survival for hellbenders in the caged treatment group. These findings suggest that chytridiomycosis is a major issue for survival of head-started hellbenders in NYS, and that caging during release may require further investigation.