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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances


Hydrologic Studies Supporting the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative

A USGS scientist is bagging up a sample while standing in a field of grass.
A USGS scientist bagging up a sample collected from a remote site in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. The sample will be analyzed by a new method that detects the presence of the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) in water and sediment. The new method gives scientists a tool to help study the environmental conditions under which Bd becomes infectious, and the mechanisms by which it spreads from one place to another.

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The Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) is a multi-agency, Department of the Interior (DOI) initiative with the objectives of (1) starting long-term monitoring to determine trends in amphibian populations, (2) conducting research into causes of amphibian declines and malformations, and (3) making information on amphibians such as the National Atlas for Amphibian Distributions available to land managers and the public. There is a need to link amphibian population studies with hydrologic investigations that can characterize natural habitat suitability, determine the vulnerability of habitat to chemical stressors, and evaluate the role of climatic variability on amphibian populations.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey's Toxic Substances Hydrology (Toxics) Program are participating in ARMI. Toxics Program scientists from across the Nation are participating in monitoring and research studies and program coordination with their Biological Resources Discipline (BRD) counterparts. For each of the seven ARMI regions, a hydrologist is collaborating with a BRD herpetologist. The hydrologist provides local expertise on hydrology and water quality of the region, and provides information on hydrologic and water-quality factors that can be use to assist with assessments and research on amphibian population status and trends. Toxics Program contributions to the ARMI have included characterizing climate patterns that indicate stress on amphibian populations, characterizing water quantity and quality factors that affect the habitat of various amphibian species across the Nation, developing PCR tools for testing of water and sediment for the presence of Bd (Batrachochytrium dendrobatids), a type of chytrid fungus that has been implicated in amphibian declines on five continents, and testing the potential role of pesticide contamination on amphibian declines and deformities.

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