PULLMAN, Wash. – WSU graduate student Erim Gomez has received a two-year, $50,000-per-year fellowship from the Bullitt Foundation of Seattle to complete field and laboratory studies on an endangered frog in the Moses Lake wetlands ecosystem.
The fellowship is granted to graduate students interested in pursuing leadership positions within the environmental field. The foundation supports the environmental work of nonprofit and educational institutions in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, western Montana and coastal Alaska.
Gomez focused his graduate research on the behavioral ecology and conservation of amphibians in Palouse prairie wetlands of eastern Washington. He applied for the fellowship so he can begin his WSU doctoral program on the state’s endangered northern leopard frog population in central Washington’s Moses Lake area.
“He believes scientists should be effective communicators with the public and policy makers, while understanding complex economic and political influences on environmental issues,” said Foundation President Denis Hayes, founder of Earth Day. “He believes that the more lenses through which we can see the world, the better able we are to solve the pressing global environmental problems faced by society.”
The fellowship will support Gomez’s spring 2012 fieldwork of collecting information on fish and frog populations as well as habitat. With the data, he will generate computer models to help produce conservation and management plans for the northern leopard frog.
“Amphibians are one of the most endangered vertebrate groups in the world, often being an indicator of overall environmental health of an ecosystem,” Gomez wrote in his application.
“I am excited about conducting field research to help me evaluate and model a complex wetland ecosystem in Washington that harbors the last known population of the state’s endangered northern leopard frog,” he said. “I might not be able to ‘save the world,’ but I would like to take a shot at saving one endangered species.”
The northern leopard frog, relatively abundant in the eastern United States, has all but disappeared from the western part of the country. Gomez is working to determine if the diminished populations stem from: habitat loss or fragmentation; the introduction of such species as fish and bullfrogs, which feed on northern leopard tadpoles; or the presence of chytrid fungus, which attacks the frog’s distinctive spotted skin.