SANTA CRUZ, CA – A University of South Florida student has discovered that a commonly used fungicide is lethal to three species of Florida’s frogs, even at concentrations previously assumed to be safe.
Taegan McMahon, A Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Interactive Biology at USF, was awarded the 2010 SAVE THE FROGS! Conference Travel Grant on June 8 for her research into chlorothalonil, one of the world’s most common – and deadly – fungicides.
The $500 prize will allow Taegan to present the results of her research at the Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in Providence, Rhode Island this July. The award was granted by SAVE THE FROGS!, a California-based nonprofit dedicated to protecting amphibians.
Chlorothalonil is the second most commonly used fungicide in America, and is often used by homeowners on peanuts, potatoes and tomatoes.
“People use pesticides like chlorothalonil on their gardens and many have no idea how harmful it can be,” Taegan said. “Chlorothalonil is deadly to amphibians one thousand times below the expected environmental concentration.”
Taegan added that the continued use of chlorothalonil, especially on large-scale farms, might contribute to the decline of frogs, which are vital to Florida’s ecosystems. Previous research shows that rain systems will cause the fungicide to spread far beyond areas where people originally apply it. In countries like Costa Rica, chlorothalonil poses the danger of traveling – through cloud systems – into the rainforests.
According to SAVE THE FROGS!, Amphibian populations worldwide have been declining at unprecedented rates, and up to 200 species have already completely disappeared in recent years.
“There are over 18,000 registered pesticides in the United States,” said Dr. Kerry Kriger, Founder and Executive Director of SAVE THE FROGS! “Amphibians have permeable skin that absorbs the pollutants and pesticides that inevitably end up in the water bodies where they live and breed. Many of these pesticides weaken amphibians’ immune responses, and some are endocrine disruptors that actually change male frogs into females.”
Dr. Kriger, whose group is based in California, is currently working to obtain a federal ban on the use and production of Atrazine, one of the world’s most common herbicides. Atrazine has been shown to create a slew of negative effects on an array of wildlife. SAVE THE FROGS! is currently organizing the International Day of Pesticide Action, planned for Oct. 24, 2010.
“Our goal is to get 100,000 people marching through the streets of Washington DC to make sure our legislators know these chemicals don’t belong in our food and water,” said Kriger.
About SAVE THE FROGS!
SAVE THE FROGS! (http://savethefrogs.com) is America’s first and only public charity dedicated to amphibian conservation. The mission of SAVE THE FROGS! is to protect amphibian populations and to promote a society that respects and appreciates nature and wildlife.
“Frogs are cool and we need them! They need our help too, so let’s SAVE THE FROGS!” – A memorable quote from their website.