US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management — Volume 00, Number 00—pp. 1–26. DOI: 10.1002/ieam.4795


Open access.


Model species (e.g., granivorous gamebirds, waterfowl, passerines, domesticated rodents) have been used for decades in guideline laboratory tests to generate survival, growth, and reproductive data for prospective ecological risk assessments (ERAs) for birds and mammals, while officially adopted risk assessment schemes for amphibians and reptiles do not exist. There are recognized shortcomings of current in vivo methods as well as uncertainty around the extent to which species with different life histories (e.g., terrestrial amphibians, reptiles, bats) than these commonly used models are protected by existing ERA frameworks. Approaches other than validating additional animal models for testing are being developed, but the incorporation of such new approach methodologies (NAMs) into risk assessment frameworks will require robust validations against in vivo responses. This takes time, and the ability to extrapolate findings from nonanimal studies to organism‐ and population‐level effects in terrestrial wildlife remains weak. Failure to adequately anticipate and predict hazards could have economic and potentially even legal consequences for regulators and product registrants. In order to be able to use fewer animals or replace them altogether in the long term, vertebrate use and whole organism data will be needed to provide data for NAM validation in the short term. Therefore, it is worth investing resources for potential updates to existing standard test guidelines used in the laboratory as well as addressing the need for clear guidance on the conduct of field studies. Herein, we review the potential for improving standard in vivo test methods and for advancing the use of field studies in wildlife risk assessment, as these tools will be needed in the foreseeable future.