Robert and Arlene Kogod Secretarial Scholar, Molecular Pathogen Scientist
B.A., Frostburg State University; M.S., James Madison University; Ph.D., University of Maryland
It is critical that we understand how diseases emerge and are transmitted. Global trade and human movement can move pathogens to new locations where they can kill wildlife species that have never encountered these pathogens before. The introduction of pathogens into naïve wildlife communities is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity, alongside habitat loss. Diseases such as the chytrid fungus in amphibians and white-nose syndrome in bats have killed millions and millions of amphibians and bats. The loss of these animals from ecosystems can cause cascading effects through the food web. For instance, mosquitoes that carry human diseases may increase in abundance with the loss of their predators, such as amphibians. A further challenge in understanding the impact of wildlife disease on biodiversity, human health and ecosystem stability is how climate change will impact disease. Muletz Wolz uses an interdisciplinary approach in field and laboratory settings to address these important topics in wildlife disease.
Muletz Wolz obtained her Bachelor of Science in biology and Spanish language and literature from Frostburg State University, her Master of Science in biology from James Madison University and her doctorate in biological sciences from the University of Maryland. For her master’s thesis, she found that adding a probiotic, a disease-fighting bacteria, to soil protected salamanders from infection by the deadly chytrid fungus. For her doctoral research, she found that salamanders harbor diverse bacteria that can kill the chytrid fungus and that temperature determines how many of these good bacteria the salamanders possess. Her results are interesting from both a scientific perspective and a conservation viewpoint, because they explain what influences the distribution of beneficial bacteria and how we can use them to protect hosts against pathogens. Approximately 43 percent of amphibian species are classified as threatened, making them the most threatened groups of animals. Disease is, in large part, driving these losses, and developing methods to reduce the catastrophic loss to amphibian biodiversity is one of Muletz Wolz’s conservation goals.
Muletz Wolz grew up in a small town in the Appalachian Mountains—Frostburg, Maryland. She loves the tranquility of nature and spending time in her garden, with tomatoes being her favorite crop. When the weather lines up and time affords itself, you might even find her snowboarding in the winter or wakeboarding in the summer.