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Improving Estimates of Pesticide/Chemical Effects on Avian Reproduction Success

Project Summary

The EPA is working to improve methods to determine if the proposed use of a pesticide (and other chemicals) will adversely affect wildlife populations.  To address this question it is necessary to determine the pesticide’s impacts on demographic parameters such as survival and reproduction rates.  Laboratory toxicity tests provide information on the concentrations of a pesticide that lead to adverse effects, but the information is not in a currency that directly relates to changes in survival and reproduction rates of wild populations.  This research project is developing a modeling framework that integrates available toxicity data with information on species life history and timing of pesticide applications, to estimate the effects on avian reproductive success throughout the breeding season in the currency needed for population-level risk assessments.  The modeling framework is very flexible for estimating effects across a variety of species with varying quality of life history information available from the literature.  It also can  be modified to include additional toxicity data and life information as needed.  Because of the large uncertainties inherent in predicting demographic processes, risk assessors and managers also need to be able to assess the precision with which such predications are made, so that they can be confident that regulatory decisions are still protective of populations of concern.  An important part of this research project is providing guidance and approaches for interpreting the uncertainty in model outputs.

Key products

Johnson, T.N., P.L. Kennedy, and M.A. Etterson. Estimating risk of cause-specific nest-failure for grassland passerines in experimentally-grazed paddocks. Journal of Animal Ecology. Submitted.

Jackson, A.K. , A.M. Condon, M.A. Etterson, D.C. Evers, S.B. Folsom, J. Detweiler, J. Schmerfeld, and D.A. Cristol. Modeling the effect of mercury exposure on the reproductive success of a free-living terrestrial songbird. The Auk. Submitted.

Etterson, M.A., S.N. Ellis-Felege, D. Evers, G. Gauthier, J.A. Gryzbowski, B.J. Mattsson, L.R. Nagy, B.J. Olsen, C.M. Pease, M. Post van der Burg, and A. Potvien. Modeling fecundity in birds: Conceptual overview, current models, and considerations for future developments. Ecological Modelling. Submitted.

Etterson, M.A., R.S. Bennett, E.L. Kershner, and J.W. Walk. 2009. Markov chain estimation of avian seasonal fecundity. Ecological Applications 19:622-630.

Bennett, R.S.  and M.A. Etterson. Quantifying the effects of pesticide exposure on seasonal fecundity rates of birds. SETAC North America 31st Annual Meeting, Portland, OR, November 7-11, 2010.

Larocque, G.R., D. Mailly, T.-X. Yue, M. Anand, C. Peng, C. Kazanci, M.A. Etterson, P. Goethals, S. Jorgensen, J. Schramski, E. McIntire, D. Marceau, B. Chen, G. Chen, Z. Yang, B. Novotna, N. Luckai, J. Bhatti, J. Liu, A. Munson, A. Gordon, and J. Ascough. Synthesis of facilitated discussions held at the symposia organized for the 2009 conference of the International Society for Ecological Modelling in Quebec City, Canada (October 6-9, 2009).

Etterson, M.A. and L. Nagy. 2008. Is mean squared error a consistent indicator of model accuracy? An analytical case study in spatially structured demography.  Ecological Modelling 211:202-208.

Bennett, R.S. and M.A. Etterson. 2007. Incorporating results of avian toxicity tests into a model of annual reproductive success. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management  3(4):498-507.

Etterson, M.A., L. Nagy, and T. Robinson. 2007. Partitioning risk among different causes of nest failure. The Auk 124(2):432-443.

Etterson, M.A., B. Olsen, and R. Greenberg. 2007. The analysis of covariates in multi-fate Markov chain nest failure models.  Studies in Avian Biology 34:55-64.

Bennett, R.S. and M.A. Etterson. 2006. Estimating pesticide effects on fecundity rates of wild birds using current laboratory reproduction tests. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment 12(4):762-781.

Etterson, M.A. and R.S. Bennett. 2006. The effects of uncertainty about age at transition on bias in the Mayfield family of estimators. Ecological Modelling 199:253-260.

Etterson, M.A. and R.S. Bennett. 2006. On the use of published demographic data for population-level risk assessment in birds. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment 12(6):1074-1093.

Etterson, M.A. and R.S. Bennett. 2005. Including transition probabilities in nest survival estimation: A Mayfield Markov Chain. Ecology 86(6):1414-1421.

Project personnel


Name E-mail Phone
Richard Bennett bennett.rick@epa.gov 218-529-5212
Matthew Etterson etterson.matthew@epa.gov 218-529-5158

Research project update date

June 16, 2011

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