SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  7 November 2013
Volume 14 Issue 11

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Understanding Chemical Effects, Exposure and Risk for Amphibians and Reptiles

Christopher J. Salice and Scott M. Weir, Texas Tech University

Understanding exposure, effects and risk of chemical contaminants to amphibians and reptiles remains a significant challenge for ecotoxicologists and risk assessors. Minimal regulatory requirements for research on reptiles and amphibians as well as the diversity of species, habitats and life histories add to the challenge of evaluating contaminant risks to herpetofauna. However, recent developments in Europe are requiring that greater consideration be given to herpetofauna in the chemical risk assessment process. There is also a growing awareness and concern for a more explicit consideration of reptiles and amphibians in ecological risk assessment in North America.

Overall, interest in herpetofauna is magnified by the fact that many reptile and amphibian populations are potentially facing a perilous future. Amphibians, for example, are the most threatened vertebrate taxa. The time is right for ecotoxiologists and risk assessors to focus efforts on a better understanding of the ecotoxicology of reptiles and amphibians and the upcoming SETAC North America annual meeting is a great place to start!

On Tuesday, November 19, the Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Global Advisory Group (EAR-AG) is sponsoring a session on advancing herpetofaunal ecotoxicity and risk assessment. The purpose of this session is to present data that represent recent advances in our understanding of the effects of chemical contaminants on amphibians and reptiles, improve understanding of contaminant exposure in these organisms and highlight and discuss new methods and challenges for assessing risk to ensure conservation of amphibian and reptile populations in contaminated areas.

Seven talks and a discussion will occur starting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday. Seven posters will be displayed. The morning talks address a wide variety of interesting and important issues in herpetofaunal ecotoxicity and risk assessment including:

  • Understanding effects of mixtures (#197 J.R. Rayburn; #198 R. Williams)
  • Novel methods in sea turtle ecotoxicology (#200 S.J. Webb)
  • Toxicant exposure in amphibians (#201 R. Van Meter; #202 M.S. Johnson)
  • Applying laboratory data in natural settings (#199 S.L. Lance)
  • Potential conflicts of interest in pesticide regulation with regard to amphibian ecotoxicity (#203 M.D. Boone)

Following these talks, a brief synthesis and paths-forward presentation will be given to provide the audience with an overview of some of the issues being addressed by the SETAC EAR-AG working group on ecological risk assessment for amphibians and reptiles. Posters will cover:

  • Advances in reptile risk assessment (#TP058 S.M. Weir)
  • Maternal effects (#TP060 J.R. Muscatello)
  • Multiple stressors (#TP059 S. Yu; #TP061 H.M. DeMali; #TP063 K.L. Smalling)
  • Cryopreservation to explore developmental effects in amphibians (#TP062 K.T. Carlisle)
  • Exploring how life stage and life history influence amphibian sensitivity to chloride salts (#TP064 B.K. Williams)

It stands to be an excellent session and a solid launching pad for future efforts by the SETAC EAR-AG!

Following the day’s presentations, EAR-AG will meet from 6:30–7:30 p.m. in room Hermitage C. Several business issues will be discussed as well as an update from the working group focused on key issues in advancing the use of herpetofauna in ecological risk assessment. The working group is a collaboration between the EAR-AG and the Ecological Risk Assessment Advisory Group and currently is focusing on issues pertaining to the use of surrogate species in ecological risk assessment of herpetofauna (e.g., fish used for amphibian ERA). No doubt, there will be lots to learn and discuss, and the sessions and meeting will provide an excellent introduction to important issues in reptiles and amphibian ecotoxicology.

Authors’ contact information: and

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