Amphibian Research Laboratory

We study pathogens and pollutants.

The Kerby Lab Is Committed To Science, Education and The Public

Drew R. Davis

Ph.D. Candidate

Dissertation Research


Broadly, I am interested in behavioral ecology, disease ecology, ecotoxicology, amphibian conservation, and general herpetology. My dissertation aims to examine the effects of agricultural tile drainage on wetland amphibian and invertebrate communities in eastern South Dakota. Read more about my research on my website.

Joe Madison

Ph.D. Candidate

Dissertation Research


I am investigating the gene expression of probiotic bacteria on amphibians from relict populations in Costa Rica. Understanding how these bacteria are protecting amphibian species might prove key to protecting future species declines. For more information on my research visit my webpage at:

Jilian Farkas

M.S. Student
My main research interests include examining the complexities of habitat and wildlife interactions, with particular focus on landscape disturbance effects on community assemblages. I am also fascinated by emerging diseases in wildlife populations, regarding why, at this point in time, they are so detrimental and prolific. I enjoy public education and outreach as well as pursuing questions that help optimize management strategies. My current project in the Kerby Lab focuses on the effects of tile drains on wetland fish, amphibian, and invertebrate communities. See more on my website.

Undergraduate Involvement

We have several critical projects being headed up by undergraduate students.

Undergraduate Research

We have several projects undertaken by some of the top students at USD.

Rachel Johannsen– Museum cataloging of South Dakota’s largest herpetofauna collection

Kalie Leonard– Discovery of rare snakes in northern Nebraska

Dr. Jake Kerby

Our laboratory is focused on both contaminants and disease.

Dr. Kerby's Research

Check out my Research Gate or Google Scholar pages for my latest publications.

What about courses?

Dr. Kerby is the 2014 recipient of the  Belbas Larson Award for teaching excellence and this year’s recipient of the Cutler Award  for Excellence in Teaching and Research.  He teaches a wide array of courses on ecological topics.
  • BIOL 151: General Biology I
  • BIOL 424: Herpetology
  • BIOL 466: Environmental Toxicology and Contaminants
  • BIOL 492: Peruvian Natural History
  • UHON 390: Science of Good Cooking
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Blog Updates

Dr. Kerby on Dakota Midday

September 21st, 2016|Comments Off on Dr. Kerby on Dakota Midday

Our recent research highlighted on South Dakota Public Radio.

Tile Drain Research on USD Website

September 21st, 2016|Comments Off on Tile Drain Research on USD Website

Check out this sweet video of our research efforts!

Salamander Fungus on Dakota Midday

February 12th, 2016|Comments Off on Salamander Fungus on Dakota Midday

Today Dr. Kerby spoke about the newest chytrid fungus, Bsal, and why salamander trade has been restricted […]

Amphibian Research Projects

Our laboratory works on a wide variety of topics concerning amphibians, disease, and contaminants. Check out some of our current projects. Below are some of the guiding questions in our work. Please email me directly if you are interested in joining our research program.

  • How does contaminant exposure alter disease susceptibility?
  • What is the status of amphibian populations in South Dakota?
  • Are tropical amphibians adequately protected with current regulations?
tiledrainThroughout South Dakota and much of the Midwest, agricultural contaminants are present in wetlands and may be responsible in part for regional species declines. A local factor contributing to elevated levels of contaminants in these wetlands is the presence of agricultural tile drains. These tile drains are corrugated plastic tubing or clay tiles that drain water off agricultural fields. Tile drainage can promote crop growth by removing excess water and salts from poorly drained soils. However, it can also transport contaminants (e.g., pesticides, fertilizers, metals) directly into nearby wetlands at concentrations above benchmarks for the protection of aquatic life. We involved in a project comparing wetland quality and biotic communities among reference (control), surface (receive surface runoff), and tile drain (receive subsurface tile drains) wetland in eastern South Dakota.
In partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) and the Missouri River Institute, our lab is examining population and disease dynamics of amphibian communities across wetland habitats of varying quality along the Missouri River. We do this through multiple methods including: call recordings, visual encounter surveys, tadpole density surveys, a mark-recapture study, and disease sampling.
Our laboratory is one of the top diagnostic labs in the country for quantifying chytrid fungi. We regularly run samples from across the globe to examine pathogen loads of the widespread Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and now the newest chytrid, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans. Email Dr. Kerby for details on this testing.