"Today a scientist who found herself in the middle of disturbing bring scientific mystery. It's the early nineteen ninety s and Karen Lips is a graduate student studying frogs in in the mountains of Costa Rica. And I had set up camp in this little shack that had no running water or electricity so this is in old growth both oak forest cloud forest. So it's moist and there's Moss everywhere and Amphibians love it. Karen lived alone spending her days studying the reproductive behavior of its Mahala Calypso. A tiny tree frog the color of emeralds and then a couple of years into her research Karen found some dead frogs and seven is not very much. She wasn't too worried about it but she couldn't figure out why they died so she sent the frogs off for essentially a frog autopsy. Then she headed home for Christmas break and when I got back I expected to see the beginning of the rainy season season. which is usually when you see the greatest number frogs and I kept waiting and waiting and the rains came and there just weren't very many frogs at all and so i? I started questioning myself like well. Maybe I disturbed them. Maybe the flashlight for two two years one little flashlight bothered them and they went away. Or maybe maybe maybe it's not raining enough. I just simply could not imagine what could have caused them to disappear. Yeah it was not the flashlights fault. Not According to the FROG autopsy results. They said we don't know why they died. They seem fine. They got something weird in their skin. Now at that point there was nothing known that would kill a frog. Doug that was something quote weird in their skin. Coming up on shortwave. Scientists untangle scientific mystery of the Amphibian World the one that goes from kind of weird to devastating support for this. NPR podcast comes from Sierra Nevada. Brewing Company family owned operated and argued over since nineteen eighty proud supporter of Independent. Thought whether that's online over over the air or in a battle more at Sierra Nevada dot com. Here's the thing you need to know right away about Infineon's there's a lot of them and that's important because they live right in the middle of the food web they are food for all the mammals and the birds and the snakes and the predators and they are the predators predators of all the insects and flies and mosquitoes. So those two things mean that they are really like a key linchpin in the entire ecosystem so when in groups of Amphibians start disappearing scientists. get nervous by the time. Karen had noticed those dead frogs in Costa Rica. They're already been these reports of frogs disappearing being in large numbers around the world and reports kept coming but nobody knew what it all meant. Nobody knew why are they disappearing. Where are they disappearing disappearing from? how quickly do they disappear? You know what what's the cause of it years. After Costa Rica Karen set up another field site in the cloud forest Panama. At first it was wonderful. Hundreds of frogs every night all kinds of different species and then it wasn't two or three years later later I went back and They would be acting very weird frogs that were supposed to only come out at night. We'd find them during the day. Frogs that would you sit. We're supposed to sit only on the leaves and the plants we see them on the ground until we pick them up because we always measure them and identify them and then let them go and a lot of times we'd pick these things up and they wouldn't struggle. They wouldn't try to escape. And oftentimes they'd make one jump and then they dead. WHOA and this happened? We were there for like three weeks weeks and in three weeks we found fifty some dead or dying frogs. Had you ever seen anything like that before. No the scene part is important written because typically researchers would get to a field site and all the frogs would just be gone nobody really witnessed them in the act of dying. Rarely even saw the the bodies but this time Karen had a front row seat more importantly she had a lot of evidence to work with and so on the one hand it is horrible horrible and sad on the other hand. You're like this is it. We have evidence no matter what we've got something we can take back. We can collect then we can preserve them we can send them to a lab and they can look at them and see what they have. Karen said the dead frogs off to a pathologist to be tested and again the vast majority of them seem to have something weird in their skin and he said that I said I have heard this before but Karen Still L. had no idea what the weird skin thing was and she wasn't alone. Scientists from all over working in countries thousands of miles apart. Were also trying to figure it out they didn't realize yet. Just how connected it all was. And this is where the media comes in a New York Times reporter interviewed Karen and some other scientists about the disappearing Amphibian problem and the report published a picture of this weird thing in the skin and then a team here in. DC at the National Zoo saw the picture and they wrote us and they said we have the same thing and we know what it is it took a bunch of scientists from all over the world help from the media and several decades needs to figure it all out but they finally had it. The culprit is a fungus kindred fungus. We're not talking like mushrooms. We're talking infectious fungus. This that burrows into the skin of an amphibian and messes with their ability to breathe and stay hydrated and regulate their body temperature. The infection can be passed directly from frog frog or it can travel through water today. What we know is that there is at least one kind of kitchen fungus almost everywhere in the world? Wow we know that globally something like like forty percent of amphibians are in decline. Now not all of that is from the kid trud but I suspect that probably quite a bit of it is in fact from kindred. Because it's many of the extinctions have occurred in Amphibians are recent like in the past twenty or thirty years which is win this kindred we believe sort of emerged spread around the reason why it's spreading now isn't entirely clear. Karen says it's probably because of us. Humans worshiping things from one place to another faster than ever before which makes it easier for organisms like kitchen fungus to hitch a ride and infect vulnerable habitats hundreds or even thousands of miles away this year the journal Science published a report estimating that has resulted in the greatest recorded loss of biodiversity diversity. Ever caused by a disease. The sad truth is there's no feasible way for us to get kicked out of the environment and that's a tough pill to swallow So how do you wake up every morning and do work on this knowing that you are fighting a losing battle. Well yeah I mean after a while it's incredibly demoralizing moralising to know that you've spent twenty five some years on something and you have not actually saved a single frog on the other hand you know for me as a a biologist. I know that evolution works and having studied human attempts to intervene and save things. Were really good. Would it sort of really discreet. Problems like saving the the condor or things where there's a discrete problem. We can attack it these diseases that are invisible so and spread. Globally are very difficult. And so what what gives me peace is knowing that things evolve off whatever made it through epidemics. They are survivors and they have something that allowed them to to get through the worst of it and so- evolution happens and I suspect that the frogs will figure it out before people do"