Latest News from the Lab

April 26, 2024

Happy Spring from the Rollins-Smith Lab!  We’ve had a busy last several months and there is much to catch up on since the last time we posted an update.

First, we’d like to welcome our new research assistant, Chelsea Roach!  Chelsea comes to us from Michigan, and she joined the Rollins-Smith Lab in November of 2023.  She has brought along her amazing lab skills and is already making great progress on our project looking at the role of macrophages in amphibian immunity against Bd.  This is a collaborative project with Leon Grayfer, PhD, of The George Washington University and was overseen by our previous RA, Mitch Le Sage.  Since his departure back in the summer of 2023, we looked for someone to take the reins and are delighted that Chelsea is the one to do that. This work involves some new-to-our-lab techniques, and her troubleshooting and tenacity is yielding some great data which we hope to pull together soon in order to better understand how macrophages help amphibians in their fight against Bd infection and chytridiomycosis.

This past March, we had a colleague take some time during her sabbatical to visit our lab.  Barb Katzenback, PhD, from the University of Waterloo spent about three weeks in our lab where she both taught us some amazing techniques and learned some of our methodology.  We’ve collaborated with her lab in the past looking at the means by which Bd is able to inhibit amphibian immune function. Dr Katzenback and her group are doing some incredibly interesting research; I encourage you to visit her lab website for more information!

We’ve also spent this spring semester working with undergraduate students to fulfill the CUREs (Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences) and Outreach obligations outlined in our RIBBiTR (Resilience Institute Bridging Biological Training and Research) project.   We mentored three undergraduate students who worked on a project examining symbiotic bacteria derived from frog skin.  These students looked for the presence of putative AMPs (antimicrobial peptides) secreted by the bacterial species that may inhibit the in vitro growth of Bd.  These studies are still in their preliminary stages, but we made some progress this past spring with the help of these students. We plan to continue this project over the summer when a high school student from Vanderbilt’s Aspirnaut program joins our lab. 

Speaking of the summer, we’ll definitely have a full house! Not only will our Aspirnaut intern, Ruby Isenhart join us, but we’ll have four other undergraduate students. Two of these students: Ria Mirchandani and Vincent Ni have been working in our lab for about a year, and they have well established projects they will continue to pursue.  Ria is looking at immune inhibitory factors present in the cell wall of Bd, and Vincent is testing the ability of bullfrog and green frog AMPs to inhibit new isolates of the chytrid fungus.  In addition, Nahum Endale and Kate Jaffee will be joining the lab; Kate comes to us from Coby College, and Nahum is a Vanderbilt University student.  We are excited to welcome both of them to do additional work looking at AMPs inhibition of Bd and help with the macrophage project.

Lastly, take a few minutes and check out this youtube video that showcases some of the recent work we’ve been doing in Panama as part of our RIBBiTR project!

July 28, 2023

Happy Summer from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

Buckle up because we have lots of big news to share!  Where shall we begin?!

Let’s start with a very bittersweet goodbye to two members of our team.  Emily Le Sage (Hall), PhD, and Mitch Le Sage left our lab last week to move on to bigger adventures in Saratoga Springs, NY.  Dr. Le Sage has accepted a faculty position at Skidmore College, and Mitch is currently looking for a position in the area as well.  We are super sad to see them go, but ever so excited about this exciting new chapter in their lives.  Needless to say, we will continue to collaborate with each of them, so it’s not goodbye forever.

We’ve had a full house this past summer with three students doing a lot of great work in our lab.  Ashley Ayala is a high school student who was part of the VUMC Aspirnaut program.  During her time here, Ashley looked at the ability of symbiotic bacteria derived from the skin of southern leopard frogs to inhibit the growth of the fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bsal), an amphibian pathogen.   Spoiler alert!  She did find that some isolates were successful in suppressing Bsal growth in experimental assays.  These data are preliminary but also exciting and very encouraging! 

Kaya Booth is a rising sophomore who attends Haverford College in Pennsylvania.  She is working on the RIBBiTR project where she processes and tests frog skin secretions sent to us by colleagues in Pennsylvania, Brazil, and California.  She will be studying the efficacy of skin-derived antimicrobial peptides from our focal amphibian species against Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) growth using in vitro methods. 

Lastly, Ria Mirchandani is one of our own; she’s a Vanderbilt University undergrad who will be entering her sophomore year this fall. She is working in our lab as part of the Vanderbilt SyBBURE program.  Ria is not new to us; she spent last semester in our lab working on an independent study project, and we are delighted to have her back this summer.  Her work involves looking at Bd cell wall preps and how they are able to inhibit immune cells using in vitro assays.

We are grateful to each one of these ladies who are taking the time to work hard, learn valuable skills, and gather good data.    It’s a pleasure to know and mentor them!

Speaking of summer students, we’d like to recognize the accomplishments of one of our Aspirnaut students from last summer, Reagan Hagewood.  Y’all…..this bright young lady is going to change the world!  She spent this summer working an internship at St Jude in Memphis, TN, where her research focused on using live single-cell imaging to determine the mechanisms that drive hematopoietic stem cell daughter cell fates.   She currently attends Prairie View A&M University in Texas, though she is from the Nashville area.  Once she finishes her undergraduate education, she plans to enroll in an MD/PhD program.  But the best part…..she was just named one of the 2023 HBCU White House Scholars at her university!

Congratulations, Reagan, on this well-deserved recognition!  We are so proud of you!

We’d also like to take a moment to pat ourselves on the back!  AmphibiaWeb chose our paper "Heat stress and amphibian immunity in a time of climate change" as News of the Week.  This is a review article published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B written by Dr. Le Sage (Hall) and Dr. Rollins-Smith.  Congratulations, Ladies!

Lastly, we're expanding!  We are currently looking to hire a research assistant.  Come join us!  We’re a nice group!  If interested, please contact Dr. Rollins-Smith at

Until next time, have a wonderful summer and we’ll be in touch again soon!


April 12, 2023

Happy Spring from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

Like always, time gets away from me and here we are with spring upon us!   And we have a bit of exciting news to share; some of our recent work has been recognized by ecoNEWS Vermont, an online portal that disseminates the latest information in ecological research around the state of Vermont.   We are thrilled to find that they have shared our study measuring leopard frog immune function in response to drought.   This study was part of a larger body of work looking at the relationship between future climate change and disease susceptibility in amphibians.

ecoNEWS VT article

This project was part of a collaborative effort among researchers from all over the United States, ranging from Nevada to Tennessee to Vermont (and several places in between!).   This study involved a lot of hard work and many long hours in the field gathering data so we are very proud to share our findings.  Congratulations, to our very own Emily Hall Le Sage, PhD, co-lead author (along with Michel Ohmer, PhD) of this study!  And thanks, Anna Marchessault, for including our work in this edition of ecoNEWS Vermont. The article is short, so take a minute and check it out.  The results are quite interesting.


In other news, the Rollins-Smith Lab is excited to host another Aspirnaut high school student this summer. This organization, developed by Julie and Billy Hudson, places high school students in labs for a summer of research.  Students not only learn the basics of scientific research, they also spend a great deal of time attending other seminars and workshops to assist them as they prepare for college and a future in science.  The program also recruits undergraduate students who want to pursue a career in the sciences, and they work in research labs during the summer as well.  This is a fantastic program that does a lot of good work, so make sure you check out their website for information, especially if you know a young person who may be interested in pursuing science as a career.


Lastly, we are chipping away at our current projects and hope to get some manuscripts pulled together in the near future detailing our work with the Coqui frogs of Puerto Rico.  We’ve gathered a lot of information and we're thinking about how to best present it.  So keep an eye out for that to come.

Until next time, be well!


November 14, 2022

Congratulations, Reagan Hagewood!

I wanted to stop by and update you all about a former student who recently presented at the 2022 ABRCMS (Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists) in Anaheim, California.

Reagan worked in the Rollins Smith Lab in the summer of 2022 as part of the Aspirnaut Program.  Her research examined the dynamics of Bd and Bsal co-infection in an in vitro system.  Reagan has excellent lab skills, she is highly motivated, and she possesses a great deal of passion for science.  She presented her work at ABCRMS last week (November 9-12), and her presentation WON IN HER DISCIPLINE!  We are so proud of her and delighted to hear this!  Actually, this comes as no surprise; Reagan has a lot of talent and a very bright future ahead of her.  The judges even noted that Reagan’s “love for research radiated as she presented.” 

Again, congratulations, Reagan, for this well-deserved honor!


Reagan Hagewood presenting at 2022 ABRCMS

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 ( if you are interested!

Until next time, be well and take care!

The field crew from our BII workshop in Pymatuning, PA

June 23, 2022

Hello Summer!

And hello heat!  While heat and humidity is the norm for our area, we’ve reached record highs for mid-June with a +100° heat index over several days.   To be honest, it's been pretty awful, even for those of us who have lived here all of our lives.


But guess what else is hot!?  ALL OF THE SUMMER RESEARCH TAKING PLACE IN THE ROLLINS-SMITH LAB!  We are excited to have three summer students working with us; two of them are from the Aspirnaut program here at Vanderbilt, and the third student is employed as a summer intern.  We love mentoring young scientists, and these ladies are showing great potential with a bright future ahead of them.



Meet Our Students!

Shouana Yang: Shouana is a high school Aspirnaut student who comes to us from Hmong College Prep Academy in St Paul, MN.  She is a member of the Junior Committee where she plans fundraisers in support of her class.  She aspires to be a dermatologist, but in the meantime, she enjoys journaling, listening to music, baking, watching films, playing volleyball, and collecting vinyl LPs.  Her summer project looks at the interaction between the Jurkat human cell line with either heat killed Bd, Hp, or Bsal cells in a co-culture experiment.  Our lab has shown that cell-to-cell interactions between chytrid fungi and immune cells can inhibit proliferation and/or viability of lymphocytes, and Shouana is looking at this interaction with her experiments.

Reagan Hagewood: Reagan is not only an Aspirnaut student but she is also native to the area.  She is from La Vergne, TN, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Nashville.  She attends college in Texas at Prairie View A&M University.  There she majors in biology with a minor in chemistry, and she is a member of the Honors Program.  Reagan enjoys exploring parks and greenways, reading self-help books, traveling, journaling, and spending time with friends and family.  She aspires to be a physician-scientist.  During her time in our lab, Reagan is looking at co-cultures of Bd and Bsal to examine the dynamics of how they behave when grown together.  Via qPCR, she is looking to see if one species is able to out compete the other.  This can lend insight as to what may be happening during Bd/Bsal co-infection in an amphibian.

Sarah Lofland:  Sarah is from Philadelphia and attends the University of Pittsburgh, where she is a rising junior.  This is not her first rodeo in a research lab; she has previous experience in a biophysics lab in New Jersey.  She plans to pursue a PhD upon graduation and is interested in clinical trials research as a career.  Sarah is furthering much of the work done by Kaitlyn Linney and Jack Lee by extracting and testing cell wall preps derived from Bd, Bsal, and Hp fungi.  Our previous work has shown that their cell walls contain inhibitory factors that can hinder proliferation of immune cells.  Sarah is continues this work, and we look forward to her results.

We welcome everyone to the lab and look forward to a fruitful summer!  There is funding news on the horizon; stay tuned, and we’ll update you on that in the coming weeks!



October 8, 2021

Happy Fall!

October has arrived and Fall is slowly marching into middle Tennessee.  We’ve enjoyed milder temperatures and we’re beginning to see leaves fall from the trees.  We’ve even had some fairly cool days in recent weeks!

You know what else is cool?  Podcasts!  They’re a delightful companion to your pumpkin spice latte and apple cinnamon muffin.  The Rollins-Smith Lab is excited to share an episode of a podcast series “Vanderbilt Health DNA: Discoveries in Action.”  According to their website, “The DNA series is designed to spark conversations about medicine, health and society.”  

The episode entitled “Climate is Us: Why Climate Change is Health Care’s Lane” features interviews with three professors from Vanderbilt University/Vanderbilt University Medical Center including our very own Dr. Rollins-Smith!

  • Reed Omary, MD, Professor, Radiology & Radiological Sciences
  • Carol Ziegler, DNP, NP-C, RD, Professor, Cross-College Scholar, Affiliated Faculty, Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health/Family Nurse Practitioner, Meharry Family Practice
  • Louise Rollins-Smith, PhD, Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, Professor of Pediatrics

Click on the link below to hear this very special episode.

Climate is Us: Why Climate Change is Health Care’s Lane

And be sure to check out other episodes from this series.  They're currently in their second season, so there are a lot of shows to choose from in their library.   

The VUMC Reporter has written about this podcast episode, as well as an additional project taking place in the Rollins-Smith Lab.  You can read that story here:

VUMC Reporter article

Take care and we'll be back soon with more updates!


August 25, 2021

Greetings from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

It’s hot and humid around here (also known as August in TN) and time for a few updates!

We’re beginning the fall semester here at Vanderbilt University which is always an exciting time for our lab.  We have the opportunity to not only welcome new students into the lab, but we also see the return of former students.  We have 2 undergraduate women who will be joining our crew to assist with animal care and other lab chores: Emmy Schuler and Joyce Sanks.  Welcome, Ladies!  We are looking forward to working with you and thank you in advance for your help.  Secondly, Kaitlyn Linney has worked in our lab for several years, and she has returned this fall to continue her research.  In the past, she has examined different levels of virulence among various isolates of Bd.  Furthermore, she has also looked at temperature dependent levels of virulence in Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal).  This semester she will be obtaining cell wall preparations from Bd and possibly Bsal since we believe many virulence factors are located on the cell wall of these fungi.  She will test those cell wall fractions for inhibition of either a T lymphocyte cell line or frog splenocytes.  Glad you have you back, Kaitlyn!

As you all know, we have several projects in the works (see Projects page) and hope to make great progress on them this fall.  We are wrapping up our DOD funded project “Effects of Climate on Host/Pathogen Interactions in Chytridiomycosis” that we’ve been working on for the last five years.  This project has involved a great deal of work, so it’s rather bittersweet to see it come to an end.  Some publications have already come out of this research, and we are working on additional manuscripts at this time.  I will keep you posted on their progress. 

We are working with Ana Longo, PhD, and Patricia Burrowes, PhD, on the project “Defining the role of skin microbiomes in defense against chytridiomycosis in frogs with seasonal infections.”  Dr. Burrowes and her colleagues have sent us lots of Coqui frog skin secretions obtained from the field in Puerto Rico.  We are currently purifying the skin antimicrobial peptides (amps) from those secretions and preparing to test their ability to inhibit Bd growth.  We ran across a few technical issues working with these samples over the summer, but we think we’ve ironed out the wrinkles and are anxious to see if there are seasonal effects on the ability of amps to inhibit Bd.

Mitch Le Sage, MS, continues to work on the “Transmission Pathways and Immunological Factors Driving Invasion Potential of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans project and making great progress including co-authoring some recent publications/presentations of the work.  He is currently setting up an infection experiment with a newt-derived isolate of Bd generously provided to us by Dr. Ana Longo. 

I believe that’s the latest to report at this time.  We have at least one more project submitted for funding, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed to hear good news in the coming months.

In the meantime…take care, get vaccinated, and wear a mask.


July 1, 2021


We're stopping by to make a big announcement.  We are very excited to report that The Rollins Smith Lab is part of a new NSF-Funded  Biology Integration Institute (BII): “Resilience Institute Bridging Biological Training and Research (RIBBiTR)."  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 called chytridiomycosis that has caused decades-long declines in amphibian populations around the world.  The good news is that some populations and some species of amphibians appear to be recovering, and our institute will continue to monitor and investigate the biological mechanisms that support these recoveries.

Needless to say, funding is what keeps us in business and allows us to continue the research we do…research to preserve these beautiful amphibian populations that are integral to a healthy ecosystem.  Plus, who doesn’t love hearing them call on a warm summer night?  Especially this little guy!  He's a barking tree frog that will have you truly wondering "who let the dogs out."  

Hello?  Hello?  Is this thing on...?

In spite of our dreadful attempts at humor, we are grateful to the NSF for supporting this research and we look forward to bringing you updates.

Happy Summer!


Photo credit: Emily Hall, PhD

May 13, 2021

Happy Spring from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

Apologies for the long overdue update on the latest from the lab.  Somehow time gets away from us and then we turn around to find that spring has sprung here in Nashville!   The trees and flowers have been gorgeous in recent weeks.  The dogwoods, cherry blossoms, redbuds, azaleas, and forsythia were among some of the most stunning blooms we’ve seen in a while.  We are now seeing the irises bloom, and irises are special!  They're the state flower so it’s always neat to see them in all their glory.   This year’s spring has been exceptionally lovely and filled with cool temperatures to enjoy before the summer heat and humidity arrive.


Tennessee State Flower, the Iris (Photo credit: pixers)


Meanwhile….the Rollins-Smith is perking along like a well-oiled coffee machine.   There may be a shortage of gasoline, but there is no shortage of caffeine around here to keep us fueled up and running.  As a result, we have two new publications to share!

Bd Review Paper

This is an excellent review paper written by Dr. Rollins-Smith and our post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Emily Le Sage.  It’s filled with all you could ever want to know about Batrachochytrium fungi and their relationship with their amphibian hosts.

Bsal Publication

This research looks at the susceptibility of Eastern newts to a newly emerging chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal).  This is of great importance because Bsal isn’t currently found in the US.   There are many ongoing efforts to stave off its entry into the country because this pathogen could have a devastating effect on the amphibian population if it enters the ecosystem.  Much of this work was performed by our research assistant Mitchell Le Sage, M.S. 

Congratulations, Mitch and our colleagues at the Univ of TN, Knoxville, on your hard work!


As always, publications are very exciting and we are really thrilled to share this work.  So grab a latte and a muffin and sit back and enjoy some of our latest research.   After all, it’s not like you can drive anywhere, right?

Lastly, we will be joined by a Vanderbilt undergraduate student, Danny Nguyen, this summer.  He will work on our Coqui frog project, so stay tuned for additional updates in the coming weeks/months.  Welcome, Danny!