October 24, 2022

Happy Fall from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

We hope everyone is enjoying this lovely fall season!  While it’s been incredibly dry in Nashville over the last several weeks, we are still seeing some pretty fall color.  The temperatures have also been a bit all over the place, but on the whole, I think we’ve really had some nice fall weather despite a few extremes here and there.  But such is life in Nashville, and if you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.

First things first! 

We are excited to welcome back Dr Emily Hall!  She moved to a new post doctoral position at Temple University in the summer of 2021 but has now returned to the Rollins-Smith Lab as a Research Assistant Professor as of this month.  Dr Hall will focus her work on our recently created and funded Biology Integration Institute (BII): “Resilience Institute Bridging Biological Training and Research (RIBBiTR)" project. The institute encompasses nine academic institutions and thirteen senior investigators using field and laboratory studies to investigate how amphibian species are developing long term resistance to the fungal disease chytridiomycosis that has caused decades-long declines in amphibian populations around the world.   

What a hectic year!

We've had a lot going on in 2022 and things are now quieting down in the lab.  Back in the spring, we hosted three undergraduate Vanderbilt students as part of our mentorship work required by the Biology Integration Institute (BII).  Mentorship and outreach programs are a critical aspect of the institute’s mission, and we are always excited to help train young scientists. These ladies learned a lot of lab techniques and seemed to have a good experience in our lab. 

Laura Reinert, Dr Rollins-Smith, and Dr Hall traveled to Pymatuning Field Station in Pennsylvania in early April as part of a BII/RIBBiTR workshop.  It was an incredibly productive week where we all gathered to not only brainstorm and iron out technical protocols, but to actually teach and learn many of these techniques.  The BII team is an incredibly dynamic and energetic collection of scientists who work extremely well with one another. Many of the PIs have collaborated for decades, so needless to say, we are all invested and passionate about mitigating the presence and spread of Bd/chytridiomycosis in amphibian populations. 

Over the summer, the Rollins-Smith Lab hosted three more young scientists (see previous blog entry).  We had a full house for a few months, but these young ladies generated a lot of great data for some of our BII projects.  

In June, Dr Rollins-Smith and Laura Reinert traveled to Banff, Alberta, for the North American Comparative Immunology Workshop.  While there, Dr Rollins-Smith presented data showing inhibition studies of Bd and Bsal against frog immunity, and Laura Reinert presented the latest data from our work looking at skin defenses of Puerto Rico’s Eleutherodactylus coqui (common Coqui frog) throughout different seasons.

L-R, Dr Rollins-Smith, Laura Reinert at NACI in Banff

Rounding out the end of the summer, Dr Rollins-Smith, Laura Reinert, and Mitchell Le Sage attended the first GARD (Global Amphibian & Reptile Diseases) meeting in Knoxville, TN.  This meeting brought attendees from all over the globe, such as England, Australia, and Belgium, just to name a few.  Dr Rollins-Smith gave one of the keynote addresses, and Mitchell Le Sage presented some work that he and collaborators have completed on Bd and Bsal infection in the eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens).

We are all now back home, hunkered down in the lab for the coming months, and ready to crank out more data!  We are happy to report that a new project looking at the role of macrophages during Bd/Bsal infection has been funded so we are gearing up to work on this study.  We are also actively recruiting rotation students for the 2022-2023 academic year, so please reach out to Dr Rollins-Smith (louise.rollins-smith@vanderbilt.edu) if you are interested!

Until next time, be well and take care!

The field crew from our BII workshop in Pymatuning, PA