College News

Damaged Ecosystems & a World Without Frogs

BeasleyVeterinarian and professor Val Beasley will discuss a world without frogs – the direction he says research suggests we’re heading – in the 2011 George C. Poppensiek Visiting Professor of Global Health lecture on Tuesday, March 1, 2011, at 6:30 pm in the Veterinary Education Center at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. The presentation, which will be offered in Lecture Hall II, is open to the public with complimentary admission. (View poster)

In “Damaged Ecosystems & the Problem of Frogs!” Beasley will draw on his research, research by others, and a bit of extrapolation, to provide insight into the direct and indirect effects of changes in ecosystems that are wreaking havoc with the first vertebrates to set up serious housekeeping on land—the amphibians. Included will be ways by which human-induced ecological disruption and contamination may influence infections, malformations, and reproductive success. His presentation will be relevant not only to animals with aquatic and terrestrial lives, but also to other species, including Homo sapiens, on a global scale.

“Amphibians are important to our ecosystem in a number of critical ways,” said Beasley. “They fulfill dual roles in the food chain, serving as both prey and predator. In wooded ecosystems, they can comprise more than half of the vertebrate biomass in late summer, and transfer energy from photosynthesis captured by periphyton to a wide array of vertebrate predators. They also help control biological pests and vectors in ecosystems. Given their place and relative importance in the environment, major declines and extinctions among amphibians undermine the wellbeing of other organisms, including humans.”

After graduation from Purdue’s School of Veterinary Medicine, Beasley was in small animal practice for six years in coastal New Jersey and western Ohio. He then completed a residency and PhD in toxicology at the University of Illinois, and currently serves as professor and assistant head of the Department of Comparative Biosciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. His expertise involves veterinary, wildlife, and ecological toxicology. His research has addressed mycotoxins. He has studied blue-green algal toxins extensively. He has also studied poisonous plants, especially the pathophysiology and lesions of black walnut in horses. His work on insecticides addressed the hypothermic and neurotoxic effects of citrus oil extracts and the delayed neuropathy caused by high doses of chlorpyrifos. More recent studies have focused on heavy metal contaminants and marine mammals and mass die-offs in flamingos, including potential roles of metals, algal toxins, and infectious agents. His major research thrust currently is on causes of amphibian declines, including investigations of interactions among ecosystem integrity, water quality, infectious disease incidence, and contaminants, most notably endocrine disruptors, pesticides, and nutrients—all of which have the potential for direct and indirect impacts on the health and sustainability of amphibian populations. Beasley is the founder and executive director of the Envirovet Program in Wildlife and Ecosystem Health, an international educational program that offers an intensive Summer Institute in multiple locations in the USA and East Africa, and is also affiliated with the Envirovet Baltic program in Northern Europe.

The George C. Poppensiek Visiting Professorship in Global Animal Health is supported by an endowment honoring Dr. Poppensiek, the fifth Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine (serving from 1959 to 1974) in recognition of his interest and contributions to international animal health.