Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America

Environmental Pollution and Ecotoxicology in North Carolina

Current Topics

Biologists collect frogs from Pocosin Lakes NWR

Biologists collect frogs from Pocosin Lakes NWR

Bringing North Carolina Data into the National Malformed Amphibian Initiative

In recent years, an increasing number of frogs and toads with severe abnormalities have been observed nationwide. The incidence of abnormalities in frogs and toads is concerning not only because of the observed decline in amphibian populations globally, but also because these species are highly sensitive to environmental stressors and they are potentially indicators of the health of their environment. The Service’s Division of Environmental Quality launched the Nationwide Abnormal Amphibian Project in 2000 with goals of 1) determining the extent and magnitude of the amphibian abnormality problem on National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) lands, 2) isolating potential causes, and 3) recommending management actions to address environmental problems affecting amphibians on refuges.

In 2003, sampling for the two-year screening phase of this project was initiated on two refuges in northeastern North Carolina: Pocosin Lakes and Alligator River NWRs. Through a cooperative effort with refuge staff, interns, environmental contaminants staff, and volunteers, up to eight sites on each refuge were regularly monitored throughout the breeding season and recently metamorphosed frogs and toads, or metamorphs, were collected. Field observations of metamorphs included determination of developmental stage and assessment for abnormalities. Abnormal frogs were observed at both refuges during the first year of this assessment; however, determination of the frequency of abnormality detection and potential causes of abnormalities (based on radiography and parasitology results) will not be possible until the end of the screening phase (following the second breeding season).


  • Evaluating the Health of Our National Wildlife Refuges: Amphibian Abnormalities (pdf version 200 KB)
  • Pesticides and the Wyoming Toad (article by by Kim Dickerson, USFWS) (pdf version 41 KB)
  • A New Threat to Frogs (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Endangered Species Bulletin. September/October 2000) (link to pdf)
  • USFWS Homeowners Guide to Protecting Frogs - Lawn and Garden Care (link to pdf)

Amphibian Links

Program Contacts

Tom Augspurger, Ecologist, 919-856-4520 ext. 21

Sara Ward, Ecologist, 919-856-4520 ext. 30

Last Updated: August 6, 2015