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EPA fellow studies effect of mercury in toads
Date:10/19/2009

geron examines this process of maternal transfer of contaminants in American toads to document the effects of maternal transfer of mercury on early embryos, larva, and juveniles, with implications for local population health.

On rainy nights in early spring, the research team collects breeding pairs of toads when they congregate in wetlands. The animals are taken back to the field lab and allowed to reproduce there under controlled conditions. The eggs are collected immediately after the mothers lay them, and adults are then returned unharmed to their habitats.

Virginia Tech is collaborating with researchers at the University of Kentucky to quantify the amount of mercury and other contaminants transferred to the eggs. The researchers conduct a wide array of descriptive bioassays and experimental tests to determine the viability of the offspring and how many of the offspring experienced adverse effects from the contaminants.

Data from the past field seasons confirm that female toads do transfer mercury to their eggs. "Even though females pass only a small percentage of the mercury in their bodies to their eggs, we observed lower hatching success from egg clutches with the highest mercury concentrations," Bergeron said in an interview last year. "Our next step is to determine if the mercury passed from the mother affects the hatchlings later in life, especially as they undergo metamorphosis [the transition of a tadpole into a toad]. These measurements are important because they may indicate how well toads do once they enter the terrestrial environment."

Of her future plans, Bergeron says, "I am interested in continuing in academia after completing my Ph.D. with an emphasis on teaching and providing research experiences for undergraduates."


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Contact: Lynn Davis
davisl@vt.edu
540-231-6157
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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