Effects of metals on amphibians

SREL Collaborators: Stacey Lance, David Scott, Gary Mills, Wes Flynn, Caitlin Rumrill, Cara Love, Megan Winzeler

Outside Collaborators: Chris Salice, TIEHH

Exposure to environmental contaminants is one of many documented reasons for the amphibian population declines occurring globally.Amphibians are susceptible to exposure from a wide variety of contaminants including organics such as pesticides and phenols, and inorganics such as metals/metalloids and fertilizers. As a result, it's likely that amphibian populations are exposed to at least one type of contaminant at some point in their life cycle, and many will experience chronic exposure. While there has been a lot of work looking at lethal and sublethal effects of organics on amphibians there has been much less attention paid to metals. Because metals don't degrade in the environment they are likely to act as a chronic stressor that can affect multiple generations. We initially became interested in looking at the effects of metals because ofan artificial wetland (H-02) was constructed on the Savannah River Site in 2007 to treat process and storm water discharge from an industrial facility. The primary issues with the outfall water are elevated Cu, Zn, and pH. Constructed wetlands can provide new habitat for local wildlife, but if poor water quality limits recruitment, these wetlands could become “population sinks.”David Scottand I have financial support from the National Nuclear Security Administration to assess the potential impacts of their H-02 constructed wetlands on local pond-breeding amphibians. We are experimentally examining the effects of trace metal exposure on several species including: the southern toad (Bufo terrestris), the eastern narrow mouth toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis), the southern leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus), and marbled salamanders (Ambystoma opacum). More details on the H-02 related projects can be found here.


We have a lot of current and planned projects revolving around the ecotoxicology of amphibians with current studies including:

  • among population variation in tolerance to Cu
  • gene expression responses to Cu
  • epigenetic effects of exposure to Cu
  • transgenerational effect of exposure to metals
  • terrestrial exposure
  • comparison of native and invasive species response to stress
  • impact of multiple stressors (metals and altered hydroperiods)
  • modelling the impacts of contaminant exposure on population and meta-population dynamics
  • effect of stress on disease susceptibility



The content and opinions expressed on this web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by theUniversity of Georgiaor the University System of Georgia.


The content and opinions expressed on this web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia. Jason O'Bryhim & Stacey Lance 2013