Daniel Medina, Ph.D.


Resident Lecturer in Tropical Forest Ecology and Resource Management


Bocas del Toro, Panama


Ph.D. Biological Sciences
Virginia Tech (USA)

M.S. in Evolutionary Biology
Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain)

B.S. in Biology with emphasis in Zoology
Universidad de Panamá (Panama)


Tropical Forest Ecology and Resource Management

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Faculty Profile

Daniel is a biologist from Panama, whose research lays in the intersection between community, microbial and disease ecology. During his time as an undergraduate student at the Universidad de Panamá, he witnessed first-hand the dramatic declines of Panamanian amphibians due to outbreaks of the pathogenic chytrid fungus. Such experience strongly shaped his career towards the study of host-pathogen interactions, with an emphasis on the ecological factors influencing amphibian’s susceptibility and population responses to the chytrid fungus. After his undergraduate studies in Panama, Daniel went on to do a master’s in Evolutionary Biology at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain), where he studied the role of developmental plasticity in the infection dynamics of the chytrid fungus in salamanders. Daniel, then, during his Ph.D. at Virginia Tech (USA), expanded the scope of his research by incorporating the study of the ecology of the microbial communities associated with the amphibian skin, and their interaction with the chytrid fungus. After his Ph.D., Daniel worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Brazil) and at Penn State University (USA), where he studied the influence of coinfections by multiple parasites and landscape characteristics in the infection dynamics of the amphibian chytrid. Throughout his academic career, Daniel has also been involved in conservation efforts of Panamanian amphibians’, mainly in the establishment and maintenance of captive colonies and conducting field trials to guide reintroduction efforts.

Academics & Research

Professional Activities

  • Reviewer for PeerJ, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation and Frontiers in Microbiology.
  • Member of the Red Mesoamericana y del Caribe para la Conservación de Anfibios y Reptiles. 2019 - present.
  • Member of the Atelopus Survival Initiative (ASI). 2021-present

Research Interests

Daniel broad research interest focuses on understanding the ecological and evolutionary processes that shape and maintain diversity patterns. To do this, he has studied diversity patterns using different contexts (e.g., from species inventories to host-pathogen interactions). For instance, during his undergraduate thesis, he assessed the changes in amphibian diversity and life-history strategies across elevational gradients in Panama. However, having personally witnessed the population declines of Panamanian amphibians due to the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), most of his research interest has aimed at understanding the ecological mechanisms involved in the co-existence of amphibian species with this pathogen. Thus, during his masters he studied how developmental plasticity mediates the persistence, and coexistence, of the amphibian host and the chytrid fungus. Later, during his Ph.D. he became interested in the study of the role of the amphibian skin microbial communities in conferring protection to the amphibians against the chytrid fungus. Overall, his research interest has focused on the study of the relationship between the diversity of these microbial communities and their ability to confer protection, and the ecological factors influencing this relationship. The ultimate goal of his research is to inform current and futures efforts for amphibian conservation, particularly in tropical regions.


  • Research grant: Assessment of the prevalence of chytrid infections, skin microbial communities and abundance of the endangered species Atelopus varius in recently re-discovered populations in Panama. 2019. Funded by the Secretaria Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación (SENACYT) of Panama (co-PI).
  • Research fellowship: Impact of initial skin bacterial communities on captive bred Atelopus limosus after exposure to natural environments. 2016-2017. Funded by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) (co-PI).
  • Award: Graduate School Doctoral Assistantship program (GSDA) fellowship from the Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech. 2015. For academic excellence.
  • Research fellowship: Interdisciplinary graduate fellowship from the Interfaces of Global Change Ph.D. program at Virginia Tech. 2014.
  • Outputs


    Klocke B, A. Estrada, M. Mataya, D. Medina, E. Baitchman, L. Belden, J. Guerrel, M. Evans, J. Baughman, G. Connette, E. Illueca, R. Ibáñez and B. Gratwicke. 2023. Front. Amphib. Reptile Sci. 1:1205938. doi: 10.3389/famrs.2023.1205938
    Gajewski, Z., L.R. Johnson, D. Medina, W.W. Crainer, Ch. Nagy, L.K. Belden. 2023. PeerJ. PeerJ 11:e15556 DOI 10.7717/peerj.15556
    Greenspan, S.E., P. Peloso, J.A. Fuentes-González, M. Bletz, M.L. Lyra, I.F. Machado, R.A. Martins, D. Medina, D. Moura-Campos, W.J. Neely, J. Preuss, M.J. Sturano, R.I. Vaz, C.A. Navas, L.F. Toledo, A.M. Tozetti, M. Vences. D.C. Woodhams, C.F.B. Haddad, J. Pienaar, C.G. Becker. 2022. Animal Microbiome 4:69 https://doi.org/10.1186/s42523-022-00220-w
    Martins, R.A., S.E. Greenspan, D. Medina, Sh. Buttimer, V.M. Marshall, W.J. Neely, S. Siomko, M.L. Lyra, C.F.B. Haddad, V São-Pedro, C.G. Becker. 2022. Animal Microbiome 4:40 https://doi.org/10.1186/s42523-022-00188-7
    Hughey, M.C., E.A. Rebollar, R.N. Harris, R. Ibáñez, S.C. Loftus, L.L. House, K.P. Minbiole, M.C. Bletz, D. Medina, W.R. Shoemaker, M.C. Swartwout, L.K. Belden. 2022. FEMS Microbiology Ecology fiac023. https://doi.org/10.1093/femsec/fiac023
    Pontes, M.R., C. Bardier, D. Medina, G. Pereira, C. Lambertini and L.F. Toledo. 2021. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 145:79–88. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03603
    Medina, D., S. Greenspan, T. Carvalho, C.G. Becker and L.F. Toledo. 2021.FEMS Microbiology Ecology 97(4):fiab030. https://doi.org/10.1093/femsec/fiab030
    Santos, R., V.I.M. Bastiani, D. Medina, L. Ribeiro, M.R. Pontes, D.S. Leite, L.F. Toledo, G.M. Franco and E.M. Lucas. 2020. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 15(1):118–130.


    March, 2023. Vassar College, New York, USA. Invited seminar.
    August, 2019. Biomuseo, Panamá city, Panamá. Invited seminar
    July, 2019. IX Brazilian Congress of Herpetology. Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil. Talk: Angie Estrada, Daniel Medina, Brian Gratwicke, Roberto Ibáñez and Lisa Belden.
    February, 2018. Annual Biological Sciences Research Day. Virginia Tech campus. Invited talk: Daniel Medina, Josh Franklin, Myra Hughey, Jenifer Walke, Matthew Becker, Shan Sun, Brian Badgley and Lisa Belden.
    July, 2017. XI Latin American Congress of Herpetology. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador. Symposium: “Disease ecology: Past and Present for a Better Future”. Quito, Ecuador. Invited symposium talk: Daniel Medina, Josh Franklin, Myra Hughey, Jenifer Walke, Matthew Becker, Shan Sun, Brian Badgley and Lisa K. Belden.
    August, 2016. Ecological Society of America annual meeting. Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. Symposium: “New Frontiers in Conservation Ecology of Tropical Amphibians and Reptiles”. Invited symposium talk: Daniel Medina, Myra C. Hughey, Matthew H. Becker, Jenifer B. Walke, Thomas P. Umile, Elizabeth Burzynski, Anthony Iannetta, Kevin P.C. Minbiole and Lisa K. Belden.
    April, 2016. Symposium of the Interfaces of Global Change IGEP. Virginia Tech campus. Talk: Daniel Medina, Myra C. Hughey, Matthew H. Becker, Jenifer B. Walke, Thomas P. Umile, Elizabeth Burzynski, Anthony Iannetta, Kevin P.C. Minbiole and Lisa K. Belden.