Tuesday, May 17, 2022

David Wake, expert on salamanders and evolution, dies at 84

He added: “Frogs tell us about the general health of the environment. They are the medium and the message. ”

In 1998, a chytrid fungus was found to cause many deaths, particularly frogs, in the rainforests of Central America and Australia. But dr. Wake and others also pointed to other factors, including climate change, pollution and habitat loss.

Dr. Wake’s Berkeley seminar on declining amphibious populations led him to start in 2000 Amphibious Web, an online collection of information on the conservation status of thousands of amphibious species, as well as their biology, natural history and distribution.

“He considered AmphibiaWeb to be part of his legacy,” said his wife, who studied the clumsy amphibians named Caecilians and worked with him on a number of papers. “He also thought naming so many species would be a lasting contribution.”

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David Burton Wake was born on June 8, 1936 in Webster, SD and grew up in nearby Pierpont. His mother, Ina (Solem) Wake, was a teacher and his father, Thomas, sold hardware and farm implements. His family moved to Tacoma in 1953.

His maternal grandfather, a self-taught botanist, exerted a strong early influence on him.

“He had ‘Gray’s Manual of Botany’, and we keyed plants together,” Dr. Wake said in an interview with the UC Berkeley Emeriti Association in 2019. “So I developed an interest in the natural world early on.”

When he visited the current Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, his focus shifted from botany to zoology; narrowed his path when he took a course in entomology. While gathering beetles in the field, he recalls, “I will stumble upon salamanders and I will be enchanted by them.”

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