Investigating Water Quality of Native Frog Habitat
One of the leading hypotheses in amphibian declines proposes that amphibians exposed to environmental pollutants are immunosuppressed, and therefore, more susceptible to disease pathogens. Antimicrobial skin peptides (AMPs) are an important first line of defense in protecting frogs against viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Previously, our lab found lowered AMP levels in native green frogs located in ponds adjacent to agricultural fields. This site had high levels of nitrates, a primary component of fertilizers applied to agricultural fields, but a subsequent laboratory study investigated the effect of nitrates and phosphates on AMP secretion, and found no effect of nitrate exposure. To continue this investigation, a student will collect water samples in the Avon Bottoms Natural Area to test for the presence of chemical pesticides and other environmental pollutants to determine what additional pollutants might be impacting these frogs. Samples will be taken throughout the summer from numerous sites previously identified as habitat for native frogs. The student on this project will have a strong background in chemistry and interest in developing a protocol to best analyze these water samples for commonly used pesticides (e.g., glyphosate, atrazine, 2-4 D).