Amphibians and Herbicides: Examining links between agriculture and declining frog populations

Biochemistry major Grace Scott’22 worked with Tawnya Cary and Rongping Deng as part of the Paukula Biomedical Fellowship Summer Research program. Her research involved detecting Atrazine in surface water of native frog habitats of southern Wisconsin.

Amphibian populations are declining world-wide, and chemical run-off from agricultural fields might contribute to these declines. Atrazine (ATZ) is a commonly used herbicide in agricultural fields in the Midwest and is known to have an adverse effect on amphibians.

Previous research in the Cary Lab determined that frogs in Avon Bottoms, WI, had different levels of antimicrobial skin peptides, a first line of defense in the amphibian immune response. However, links to agricultural influences were inconclusive. In this research, surface water from frog habitats in Avon Bottoms, WI, was sampled and analyzed for ATZ through gas chromatography and an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. These techniques detected ATZ in the water at levels that could cause adverse effects on frogs. We are currently investigating the environmental degradation products of ATZ to better understand the suite of chemicals in these water bodies.

September 29, 2021

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