Tell me why
When I started my new Postdoc at the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) in Berlin last year, I came into a moment of internal consideration: What the heck did I do for the last years? Yes, I am a Dr. now, but what was the use of looking through a microscope for 4 years? It was time for myself to start writing a paper that justifies the “what and why” I became a scientist.
Time to take action! Shortly after I contacted potential co-authors: specialists on topics I wanted to include in my yet to write review paper. The goal was to integrate knowledge from 3 different research areas: amphibian conservation, aquaculture, and plankton ecology. All these research areas are quickly evolving, but somehow seemed to be almost complementary. They all pose new solutions, and come up with alternative strategies to tackle our problem: how to control zoosporic diseases such as chytrids and oomycetes without harming the environment? With other words: can we come up with different biological concepts to control aquatic zoosporic diseases? These strategies may be less harmful and more sustainable than the more traditionally used chemical approaches, which may do actually more harm to the target species than good (check here).
In good scientific practice, we planned to review different concepts. After submitting a pre-submission inquiry to the editor of “Trends in Parasitology”, we got an invitation to submit a review paper on the topic of “Biological Concepts for the Control of Aquatic Zoosporic Diseases”. As these diseases pose a serious threat to biodiversity, ecosystem services but also economic activities such work was very timely. For instance, a recent Science paper demonstrated the role of chytrids in the decline of at least 501 amphibian species over the past half-century, including 90 presumed extinctions (Scheele, et al. (2019)). Also, other zoosporic diseases, such as Saprolegnia, can pose a serious threat to aquaculture. Here they can dramatically reduce yield of farms, thereby inducing severe economic losses.
The highlights of our review:
Aquatic zoosporic diseases pose a threat to biodiversity, ecosystem services, and economic activities.
Current control methods are based on the use of chemicals that have large negative side-effects.
To support the development of alternative biological control strategies, we outline seven general biological concepts to control zoosporic diseases.
We discuss some of the research required to successfully apply biological control strategies in the future.
We hope that our new paper, and the discussion therein, can lead to successful application of biological control strategies in the future. And thats exactly why I wanted to be a scientist!