Allison Byrne is a conservation biologist and postdoctoral fellow affiliated with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's Center for Conservation Genomics. She studies disease-impacted amphibian communities in Panama, using genomic tools to understand both host and pathogen dynamics. Her postdoctoral work seeks to uncover the mechanisms of amphibian persistence in the face of a deadly fungal pathogen and apply these insights to captive management.
Her current projects include:
- Using DNA collected from museum specimens to compare historical and contemporary populations of harlequin toads (genus Atelopus) in Panama
- Testing the efficacy of genetic rescue for captive populations of Atelopus varius
For her postdoctoral research, Byrne is working with SCBI secretary scholar and molecular pathogen scientist Carly Muletz-Wolz and Center for Species Survival conservation biologist Brian Gratwicke. Byrne's postdoctoral project builds on insights gained from her dissertation work, where she used an exome capture technique to sequence 186 Atelopus varius/zeteki from Panama. This work, recently published in Global Change Biology, lays the groundwork for genetically informed conservation of these species and provides preliminary evidence that genetic rescue could be a beneficial strategy going forward.
Byrne got her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley where she was advised by Dr. Erica Bree Rosenblum in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Her dissertation involved developing a new genotyping assay for the amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, Bd). She used this assay to genotype swabs from around the world, uncovering a previously unknown Bd lineage in Asia. She continues to collaborate with researchers around the world to sequence Bd swabs across spatial and temporal scales.
Byrne, A.Q., Richards-Zawacki, C.L., Voyles, J., Bi, K., Ibáñez, R., Rosenblum, E.B. 2020. Whole exome sequencing identifies conservation units and the potential for genetic rescue in critically endangered Panamanian golden frogs. Global Change Biology. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15405
Byrne, A.Q., et al. (28 additional co-authors), Erica Bree Rosenblum. 2019. Cryptic diversity of a widespread global pathogen reveals expanded threats to amphibian conservation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; 116(41), 20382-20387. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1908289116