Adapting gives frogs hope for survival

ASU expert explains how some species may survive deadly fungal infections by changing skin secretions


March 29, 2018

The global decline of amphibians over the past three decades is alarming, with as many as 200 amphibian species going extinct since the late 1980s. The likely cause of both extinctions and declines is the chytrid fungus — a microscopic, pathogenic fungus that causes chytridiomycosis, an infectious disease in amphibians. This disease has a wide range of effects in species, causing some to go extinct and some to decline. Meanwhile in some species it has little to no effect.

In a new study published today in Science, an international team of researchers has found that some frogs are surviving and some critically endangered species may be beginning to recover. But why? frog in stream Atelopus varius, a critically endangered frog thought to have gone extinct after populations were decimated by the fungal disorder chytridiomycosis, was found again in Costa Rica. Conservation efforts are underway to help conserve this species. Photo by Sandra Leander/ASU

The scientists found that changes in the chemicals released by the skin of the frogs might be helping these amphibians fight off this deadly fungus.

ASU Now spoke with James Collins, an evolutionary ecologist at Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences who published a Perspectives paper today in the journal Science, to shed some light on what might be a bit of good news for tropical frogs.

Q: With this new study, there seems to be cause for hope, at least for some frog species. Is there?

A: When the chytrid fungus (an amphibian fungal pathogen) emerged in a community of tropical frogs in Panama in 2004, some two-thirds of the 74 species there declined to critically low numbers or were presumed extinct. More than ten years later, this new study reports the recovery of 9 of these species holding out the hope that recovery is possible and that still others species will follow.

It is important to note, however, that the nine recovering species are only about 12 percent of the original number of species in the community. Many species are still missing. 

Q: What is causing some of the species to recover? Are they developing a resistance to this infection? 

A: The new research suggests that recovery results from changes in chemicals released by the skin of the frogs, or changes in the microbial community on the skin of frogs and the chemicals the microbes produce, or both. The researchers are uncertain about how these changes in amphibian defenses arose. It could be that the arrival of the new pathogen stimulated successive generations of frogs to produce different chemicals as a result of changes in their physiology, genetics or both.

James Collins, Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment, ASU School of Life Sciences

Q: Is it likely that more species will continue to go extinct, or is this an important area to learn more about in terms of conservation?

A: Some species may still go extinct, especially if they were reduced to very small population sizes by this infectious disease. In terms of conservation, these results suggest it is important to minimize other population stresses to facilitate recovery. Larger population sizes will have greater variation, which would make it more likely that a species would survive a novel pathogen.

Q: Are there any options or ways we can intervene to help protect these animals, rather than simply allowing them to naturally develop resistance to this disease? 

A: One alternative is removing species from the wild and putting them into facilities, such as zoos and aquaria where the amphibian pathogen is absent. This conserves the species. However, the new research shows that such animals will not develop the protections against the pathogen that arise in field populations.

This presents conservation biologists with a dilemma: leave the animals in the field and hope they develop protection or place them in facilities. Researchers then would need to study how it might be possible to challenge species in facilities in ways that they would develop protection before being released back into the natural communities.

Q: Do you think these new findings are cause for us to be hopeful about the future of amphibian species affected by this disease?

A: The new study offers hope for a couple of reasons. First, it adds more examples to those few cases we have already of species recovering. Second, the new information about how frogs protect themselves against the infectious pathogen suggests several avenues of research for understanding how this happens.

Sandra Leander

Manager, Media Relations and Marketing, School of Life Sciences

480-965-9865

ASU Meteor Studio makes big impact at mobile computing research conference


March 29, 2018

Arizona State University Assistant Professor Robert LiKamWa’s students in the Mobile Experiential Technology through Embedded Operations Research lab, known as Meteor Studio, shone brightly at the mobile computing systems and applications international workshop ACM HotMobile ‘18 last month, taking home a best poster award and feedback from the research community.

The Association for Computing Machinery's event selectively chooses research papers that explore new directions in research. Researchers come share active works-in-progress and preliminary results for early feedback from the mobile computing systems research community. Conference participants came from universities across the U.S., China, Japan, the U.K., Finland and Luxembourg in addition to top industry representatives Microsoft Research and Intel Corporation. Five people pose for a photo in the ASU Meteor Studio. Assistant professor Robert LiKamWa and his students from the Arizona State University Meteor Studio impressed the mobile computing systems international research community at the Association for Computing Machinery’s HotMobile ‘18 conference workshop, taking home a Best Poster award and getting valuable feedback on their research. From left to right: Electrical engineering graduate student Sridhar Gunnam, computer science graduate student Siddhant Prakash, Assistant Professor Robert LiKamWa, computer engineering doctoral student Jinhan Hu and computer engineering (electrical engineering) graduate student Venkatesh Kodukula. Photo courtesy of Robert LiKamWa  Download Full Image

The students authored two of the workshop’s 19 accepted papers and presented two posters out of 16 at the poster and demo sessions. Their work with the Meteor Studio’s interdisciplinary research group focuses on developing solutions to challenges in efficiently sensing, processing and acting on data gathered by sensors in many of the mobile devices we use daily.

Networking with the world’s best mobile systems researchers inspires better research

As local chair of the ACM HotMobile ‘18 organizing committee, LiKamWa brought the international workshop to Tempe, Arizona, and served on the technical program committee to select papers for the conference.

LiKamWa says the HotMobile research community, ACM SIGMOBILE, is very welcoming to young researchers and budding graduate students. Bringing the new and experienced members of the community together to discuss research also fosters innovation in mobile systems research and industry.

“Established SIGMOBILE researchers in academia and industry serve as fonts of inspiration and perspective to young researchers,” LiKamWa said. “I was happy that my students took advantage of the opportunity to network with senior researchers.”

He also believes these interactions gave his students a confidence boost, showing them that their work has the potential to create a substantial impact in mobile systems research.

“In the weeks since HotMobile, I’ve already seen them further ramp up their already-strong work ethic with confidence and enthusiasm,” LiKamWa said.

The students also enjoyed learning about the wider field of research and how the Meteor Studio fits into the industry.

“The technical talks were very rich and gave us a perspective of where we stand as a research lab in mobile systems research and I was convinced that we are tackling some of the major problems through the work we are doing here,” said Siddhant Prakash, a computer science graduate student.

Augmenting augmented reality

man talking about poster presentation
Computer science graduate student Siddhant Prakash presents his poster highlighting research on environmental sensing for mobile augmented reality applications to a fellow ACM HotMobile ‘18 attendee. Prakash won Best Poster out of 16 posters at the workshop. Photo courtesy of Robert LiKamWa

Prakash won the Best Poster award for his research with LiKamWa, “Real-time Illumination Estimation Using Collaborative Photorealistic Rendering for Mobile Augmented Reality.”

“My research aims to make augmented reality on mobile devices seem more lifelike,” Prakash said.

Augmented and virtual reality are exciting areas of research that have attracted investments by software giants Apple, Google and Microsoft. All the attention on the technologies behind AR and VR make it an opportune time to explore challenges and opportunities for optimizing performance in mobile systems.

His specific research focus is to help today’s augmented reality applications understand their surroundings better by adding elements they don't currently have.

“In my proposed research, I want to sense the lighting environment using multiple mobile devices, and use the sensed information to render the virtual scene with lighting that matches the real lighting of the user’s environment,” Prakash said.

In his poster he illustrates the idea of multi-viewpoint sensing — using more than one mobile device to sense the surrounding environment — and collaborative rendering to share the computational burden among the multiple participating mobile devices in order to render a higher quality scene.

A highlight of Prakash’s poster demonstration was presenting his research to session judge Sharad Agarwal, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research, who complimented his work and discussed its possibilities.

Prakash was satisfied with his first conference experience and with meeting other researchers from around the globe.

“The confidence I got by just walking up to them and discussing each other’s individual research was the highlight of the event,” Prakash said. “It opened my mind to the range of problems being tackled in mobile computing, few of which I was completely unaware of.”

Prakash says he was surprised his poster received the Best Poster award.

“I was only concentrating on getting my story across to the participants and getting their honest opinion on my work,” Prakash said. “This win is a special one for me because it was my first time presenting something, or even attending a conference, in the first place. Winning a best poster award was just the icing on the cake that I wanted!”

LiKamWa commended Prakash’s effort and presentation skills, which he helped all the students practice with ASU faculty so they’d be ready for their demos.

“The Best Poster award is a wonderful recognition of Siddhant’s dedicated efforts toward his research at the intersection of computer vision and computer graphics for augmented reality. I believe it was Siddhant’s artful clarity of explanation that earned him the award,” said LiKamWa, who holds joint appointments in the ASU School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering in the ASU Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Making mobile vision more energy efficient

3 people talking about poster presentation
Computer engineering doctoral student Jinhan Hu (second from right) discusses his research on reducing mobile vision application power consumption with other researchers attending ACM HotMobile ‘18.Hu presented one of four demonstrations — his first public talk at a conference. Photo courtesy of Robert LiKamWa

Jinhan Hu, a computer engineering doctoral student studying computer vision, had a paper accepted that details his research on reducing mobile vision power consumption for a variety of applications including augmented reality. He conducted this research, titled “Characterizing the Reconfiguration Latency of Image Sensor Resolution on Android Devices,” with LiKamWa, computer science graduate student Vraj Delhivala and recent computer engineering graduate Jianan Yang.

“Our research will reduce sensor resolution reconfiguration latency and enable new classes of vision algorithms that use a resolution-based approach to improve performance and efficiency in a variety of visual tasks,” Hu explains. “I also hope our research can be one of the foundational components of energy-efficient adaptive mobile sensing that can be implemented not only on mobile devices but also extended to other similar systems.”

Hu presented his research as one of four demonstrations at the workshop as part of his first academic conference experience, which he says was “an amazing feeling.”

“I got to network with a lot of knowledgeable professors, industry leaders and PhD student peers who are similarly pursuing greatness in their research careers,” Hu says.

Hu says he was happy to discuss his research with the international community at ACM HotMobile ‘18.

“The feedback from the community will help me rethink my research more comprehensively and motivate me to work even harder to provide deeper contributions,” he says.

Improving processing and temperature efficiency

man giving presentation
Computer engineering (electrical engineering) graduate student Venkatesh Kodukula presents his research on improvements to mobile image capture and processing systems at ACM HotMobile ‘18. Kodukula was one of the two ASU students who had papers accepted by the conference. Photo courtesy of Robert LiKamWa

Venkatesh Kodukula, a computer engineering (electrical engineering) graduate student, was also happy with the feedback he received for his paper, “A case for temperature-driven task migration to balance energy-efficiency and image quality for vision processing workloads,” the second ASU paper to be accepted by the selective conference. Last year, Kodukula presented a poster on the early ideas of his research at ACM HotMobile ‘17 and won the Best Poster award. This year he presented his updated research as one of the workshop’s talks.

His research focuses on improvements to continuously recording cameras on mobile devices such as surveillance drones. Current on-system image processing methods consume a significant amount of power and result in high data rates from transferring all image data continuously across the interfaces from the sensor to the processor. One proposed solution is to push processing near the image sensor for energy efficiency. However, this technique causes heat buildup in the camera, and a hot camera produces poor image quality and impaired accuracy of vision applications.

Kodukula’s paper proposes a distributed processing method that alternates between near-sensor and far-sensor processing units based on current temperatures.

“To balance the trade-off, we propose temperature-driven task migration,” Kodukula explains. “When the camera is cool, we perform near-sensor processing with strong thermal coupling. When the camera becomes hot, we offload some processing to the thermally isolated host to alleviate the sensor’s thermal stress. Our policies enable energy-efficient near-sensor processing without compromising the task accuracy.”

Kodukula says having his paper accepted means the community finds his research interesting.

“The review comments I received for my paper are encouraging and helpful to advance my research,” Kodukula says. “All these experiences really mean a strong positive vibe for a young researcher like me.”

Watch all technical talks from ACM HotMobile ‘18.

Monique Clement

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-727-1958