Southern California Conferences for Undergraduate Research

Southern California Conferences for Undergraduate Research

Activated Carbon Adsorption of Tetrodotoxin


Joseph Liao, Joseph Liao, Joshua Liao, Angela Nakahara, Alis Sokolova


  • Lee B. Kats, Professor of Biology, Pepperdine University
  • Gary Bucciarelli, PhD Graduate Student of Biology, University of California Los Angeles

Like many Mediterranean environments, the Santa Monica Mountains are prone to wildfires. As a result of such, woody plants are burned into activated carbon, commonly known as charcoal, which possesses absorptive properties that allow it to trap chemicals within its extensive carbon network. During these wildfires, the activated carbon is discharged into the local streams, and significantly alters how organisms communicate with one another. Newts, Taricha torosa, of the Santa Monica Mountains secrete the potent neurotoxin tetrodotoxin (TTX) to signify their toxicity. The newts communicate and protect themselves from predation by secreting TTX. The purpose of this investigation is to determine how effectively activated carbon adsorbs TTX. Using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), the TTX concentrations in water after activated carbon is discharged were measured. The study was conducted using activated carbon derived from burnt wood, and filtered, stream-conditioned water with T. torosa skin TTX concentrations. It was found that TTX concentrations were zero after activated carbon sank from the surface of the water regardless of activated carbon discharge mass and duration after discharge. These findings suggest that activated carbon functions as a filter that effectively adsorbs TTX. Activated carbon may remove chemical signal transmittances from newts to predators, thereby potentially altering newt-predator interactions after wildfire.

Presented by:

Joseph Liao, Joseph Liao, Angela Nakahara, Alis Sokolova, Joshua Liao


Saturday, November 17, 2012




Broome Library

Presentation Type:

Poster Presentation