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Environmental Stress, Nutrition, & Tadpole Development

Erica Crespi

Amphibian decline has been an ecological and conservation issue of concern for more than 15 years. The reasons for decline are varied, including reduction or fragmentation of habitat, exposure to pollutants, or exposure to parasites and disease. It is not clear whether conditions experienced during the tadpole stage or the adult stage of the amphibian are causing such mortality. The research projects conducted by Erica Crespi and her students at Vassar Farm are designed to understand how environmental conditions experienced during the tadpole stage affect growth, development and survivorship of amphibians. In experiments using artificial ponds that simulate natural conditions, we are investigating three questions: 1) do adverse environmental conditions activate the neuroendocrine stress axis in tadpoles to reduced growth, slow development and increase mortality, 2) does the nutritive condition of the tadpole modulate the effect of the stressor on growth and development, and 3) does activation of the stress axis during the tadpole stage can predispose metamorphosed frogs to future susceptibility to disease and reduced fitness later in life. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation.