October 13th is International Batrachochytrium Isolation Day
Submitted by: D. Rabern Simmons
Sunday, October 12, 1997: Joyce Longcore comes into the microscopy lab like so many days before. She’s been staring at pieces of frog skin under the microscope for weeks, but she can’t wait until Monday to continue her isolation attempts. For hours on end, she has examined the mysterious iridescent circles, their chitin cell walls shimmering under brightfield microscopy, pockmarking the polygonal epidermal cells. She’s dragged the flecks of skin through agar media to dislodge those pesky bacterial contaminants, which can so rapidly adapt to the antibiotics, placed the pieces in liquid media, and watched, but to no avail. Still, her microscopy mantra echoes in her mind: Look, look, look.
Today, however, is different. Looking at another flask of liquid media, she notes that the contents appear dissimilar to bacterial contamination. Aseptically placing a drop from the flask on a microscope slide, she examines the culture with her reliable Bausch & Lomb, and with equal parts relief and excitement, she sees the things for which she’s been looking. Months after observing that first ultrastructural cross-section, a serendipitous micrograph revealing a flagellar kinetosome in the spherical pockets contained in the vertebrate skin cells, her hunch is finally confirmed.
Zoospores; living, swimming, posteriorly flagellated zoospores. The resulting zoosporic eufungal isolate, JEL197, would go on to be the ex-type culture of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (1), the first vertebrate parasite described within the Chytridiomycota.
The following day, October 13, is Longcore’s birthday. And a very happy birthday, at that.
Joyce E. Longcore (née Griffin), a native of South Haven, Michigan, was an undergraduate student researcher for Frederick K. Sparrow, Jr. at the University of Michigan, himself a student of the zoosporic eufungi, of which the current Chytridiomycota (chytrid fungi) represent the most speciose group. After graduating in 1960, Longcore obtained an M.A. in 1963 at Indiana University. Thereafter, among other jobs, she worked for DuPont in Delaware while her husband, Jerry Longcore, worked as a wildlife biologist. After Sparrow’s passing in 1977, few specialists of zoosporic eufungi remained, perhaps the most prominent being Sparrow’s contentious adversary, John S. Karling at Purdue University, namesake of the MSA Annual Meeting’s Karling Lecture. Karling’s personal tragedy of 1976, the death of his only daughter Sayre at the age of 29, thereafter reduced his academic output, culminating in his 1977 Chytridiomycetarum Iconographia (2), which he dedicated to Sayre.
In 1985, Longcore, now a self-described full-time, stay-at-home mother, returned to her study of the zoosporic eufungi. Her Ph.D. program was sponsored by a student of Alexander H. Smith, Richard Homola, then at the University of Maine, Orono, where the Longcores resided for Jerry’s work. Homola was Longcore’s mentor but allowed her a vast degree of independence while he pursued his own interests in the Basidiomycota. In 1991, she completed her program, describing three new chytrid fungi species from adjacent yet chemically dissimilar watersheds in Maine (3–5). Along the way and after accomplishing this goal, she published many additional works, including an updated list of chytrid species (6) discovered since Sparrow’s 1960 monograph, Aquatic Phycomycetes (7).
Today, Longcore is synonymous with chytrid fungi and “the frog chytrid”, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis or Bd, in particular. Additionally, the hundreds of cultures she personally isolated have been invaluable for physiological, phylogenetic, and phylogenomic studies of the zoosporic eufungi. For her role in the characterization and isolation of Bd, her incalculable influence on its researchers around the world, and her countless contributions to the systematics of zoosporic eufungi, she was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2012, and has received the MSA Fellow Award in 2008, the AAAS Golden Goose Award in 2017, and the MSA Distinguished Mycologist Award in 2022.
At 85 this year, Longcore continues to grow a large vegetable garden alongside her family’s home in Orono, and she still takes time to isolate fungi in her reduced lab space at the University of Maine. New isolates are sent for cryopreservation to the Collection of Zoosporic Eufungi at the University of Michigan (CZEUM, ), which holds her and others’ amassed cultures of these fungi. She continues to inspire mycologists, herpetologists, and epidemiologists alike via workshops, conferences, and international collaborations, still expounding that same old mantra: Look, look, look.
So, this and every October 13th, in honor of Longcore, her prestigious accomplishments, and her inspirational journey, I hope that you would share her story and join me in wishing you and your faculty, staff, students, and labmates, a happy International Batrachochytrium Isolation Day.
Happy birthday, Joyce.
Rabern Simmons (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Curator of Fungi
Purdue University Herbaria
M.S. (2007), Ph.D. (2012), University of Maine
- Longcore JE, Pessier AP, Nichols DK. 1999. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis gen. et sp. nov., a chytrid pathogenic to amphibians. Mycologia 91:219–227.
- Karling JS. 1977. Chytridiomycetarum Iconographia. Monticello, New York: Lubrecht & Cramer.
- Longcore JE. 1992a. Morphology and zoospore ultrastructure of Chytriomyces angularis sp. nov. (Chytridiales). Mycologia 84:442–451.
- Longcore JE. 1992b. Morphology, occurrence, and zoospore ultrastructure of Podochytrium dentatum sp. nov. (Chytridiales). Mycologia 84:183–192.
- Longcore JE. 1993. Morphology and zoospore ultrastructure of Lacustromyces hiemalis gen. et sp. nov. (Chytridiales). Canadian Journal of Botany 71:414–425.
- Longcore JE. 1996. Chytridiomycete taxonomy since 1960. Mycotaxon 60:149–174.
- Sparrow FK. 1960. Aquatic Phycomycetes. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press.
- Simmons DR, Bonds AE, Castillo BT, Clemons RA, Glasco AD, Myers JM, Thapa N, Letcher PM, Powell MJ, Longcore JE, James TY. 2020. The Collection of Zoosporic Eufungi at the University of Michigan (CZEUM): Introducing a new repository of barcoded Chytridiomyceta and Blastocladiomycota cultures. IMA Fungus 11:20.