Expert on herbicide effects on frogs opens College Lecture Series

A biologist who made national news with his research into the effects of a common pesticide on frogs will speak at Bates College at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 22, in Chase Hall Lounge, 56 Campus Ave.

Tyrone Hayes’ talk is titled “From Silent Spring to Silent Night: What Do Frogs Tell Us About Human Health?” The first event in the 2008-09 College Lecture Series at Bates, the lecture is open to the public at no cost.

An associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, Hayes published research early in this decade that indicated a connection between extremely low environmental levels of atrazine, an herbicide commonly used by corn growers, and interference with gender differentiation in frogs.

Among other effects, the atrazine exposure caused male frogs to grow ovaries as well as testes, and altered the development of the frogs’ voice boxes, which would impair their ability to find mates.

“Why should we care about frogs?” Hayes asked during a 2007 presentation of “From Silent Spring to Silent Night” at the College of Wooster. “Because frogs have the same hormones as humans, so whatever happens to them as a result of atrazine could also happen to us.”

At Wooster, Hayes criticized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its refusal to ban atrazine, despite the fact that much of its own research has identified the dangers. The European Union imposed a ban on the substance that took effect last year.

“He also blasted the manufacturer of atrazine (Syngenta), which admitted that its employees had eight times the national average of prostate cancer,” states a summary of the presentation on the College of Wooster Web site.

Continuing in the vein of environmental issues, the Bates Lecture Series returns with Naomi Oreskes, author of the influential 2004 essay “Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” at 7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 20 in Chase Hall Lounge.

A historian of science of the University of California, San Diego, Oreskes will discuss the science of climate change and the idea of scientific consensus. Her essay has been cited in such publications as The New Yorker, USA TODAY and Parade, as well as in Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”

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