limosa harlequin frog

Amphibians—frogs, toads, salamanders and newts—are vanishing. Researchers believe that since 1980, 122 amphibian species have gone extinct. Furthermore, 42 percent of the world's 7,500 frog, salamander and caecilian species are declining rapidly and are in danger of extinction in our lifetimes. This is an unprecedented rate of species decline and loss and deserves an unprecedented conservation response. Amphibian conservation is part of the Smithsonian Conservation and Biology Institute’s Center for Species Survival. Activities are primarily focused in Panama--through the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute--and in Appalachia with support of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

Endangered Frogs

In 1999, Smithsonian’s National Zoo scientists worked with a researcher from the University of Maine to describe a new fungus that causes the skin disease chytridiomycosis--or Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd)--that is deadly to amphibians. Scientists now believe that the spread of this disease, simply referred to as chytrid, is responsible for mass amphibian extinctions on several continents. The Center for Species Survival’s conservation efforts focus on developing ex situ assurance colonies for amphibian species at highest risk for extinction and finding a cure for the amphibian chytrid fungus so that amphibians can be reintroduced to their native habitat.

Appalachian Salamanders

The Appalachian region is home to more salamander species than anywhere else in the world, making it a true hotspot for salamander biodiversity. With almost half of all salamander species listed as threatened or endangered and populations continuing to decline, the Appalachian region has become a primary focus of salamander conservation research and planning. The Center for Species Survival’s conservation efforts focus on understanding the threat of climate change to Appalachian salamanders and the threat of emerging diseases, and on monitoring salamanders.

Help Save Frogs and Salamanders!

Current Projects


Amphibian Nutrition

Conservationists are establishing healthy amphibian populations in human care, called amphibian arks, for up to 2,000 species likely to go extinct in the next decade.

Assisted Reproduction and Genome Resource Banking of Panamanian Golden Frogs

The Panamanian golden frog is extinct in the wild, but scientists are working to save this species by preserving and studying genetic material from at-risk populations.

Climate Change and Salamanders

Smithsonian scientists are identifying and monitoring the impact of climate change by studying salamanders.

Detecting Rare Salamanders Using Environmental DNA

How do you find an elusive salamander that lives under large rocks at the bottom of cold, rushing streams? Scientists are using eDNA to track the hellbender!

Emerging Diseases in Salamanders

Smithsonian scientists and partners provide free test kits for salamander pet owners to screen their animals for deadly diseases that are spread through the international pet trade.

Genomic Responses to Disease

Some frogs and salamanders have an innate resistance to the deadly chytrid fungus. Scientists are studying their genes to help save amphibians.

Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project

Scientists have established assurance colonies of amphibians at risk of extinction across Panama, and are working to reduce the impact of amphibian chytrid fungus so they may one day be reintroduced to the wild.

Relationship Between Skin Microbiomes and Disease Outcomes

Scientists are studying the natural communities of bacteria on frogs' skin for antifungal properties that may help some frogs resist, or survive, the deadly infection caused by chytrid fungus.

Continue Exploring

Changing Landscapes Initiative

Smithsonian scientists work alongside community members in Northwestern Virginia to evaluate the impacts of land-use change on wildlife, ecosystem services and community health.

Coral Biobank Alliance

Smithsonian scientists are part of the Coral Biobank Alliance, a global network of coral experts preserving corals for restoration and research.

Coral Species Cryopreserved with Global Collaborators​

View a list of the coral species that have been cryopreserved using a technique developed by Smithsonian scientists.

Wildebeest Conservation

Conservation Ecology Center scientists are tracking the movements of white-bearded wildebeest to understand how changes across the landscape impact the species.

Protecting Piping Plovers in the Great Lakes

In 2022, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center will begin a new research project to help protect endangered piping plovers from predation by merlins.

Swift Fox Recovery

Smithsonian scientists, in collaboration with the Fort Belknap Fish and Wildlife Department, are embarking on a five-year swift fox reintroduction project to restore swift foxes to tribal lands and to help reestablish connectivity between disjointed swift fox populations.

Conserving the World’s Largest Working Wetland

Conservation Ecology Center researchers are collaborating with institutions in Brazil and other Smithsonian colleagues to support sustainable cattle ranching in the Pantanal wetland.