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2021 Project Proposal

Effects of environmental stressors on the microbiota of larval amphibians

Myra Hughey (Biology)

Project Type - B - Flexible:  It will be in-person if we are allowed to have URSI students on campus, but it will become a remote project if not.


The microbiome plays a critical role in host health, and the close association between microbes and their hosts begins early in development. Environmental challenges such as invasive pathogens and stressful abiotic conditions can perturb the microbiome. However, the impact of environmental stressors on the microbiome during early host development remains virtually unexplored. The goal of this URSI project is to expand our understanding of how environmental stressors influence early formation of the host-associated bacterial communities from the skin and gut of wood frogs (Rana sylvatica). Wood frogs breed in ephemeral ponds, including ponds near roads that have elevated salinity levels due to run-off from de-icing salts. This project seeks to understand if stress induced by elevated salinity disrupts the formation of the skin and gut microbiome and contributes to greater susceptibility to ranavirus infection in wood frog larvae.

This study will include both field and laboratory components. Thus, students should be prepared to participate in a wide variety of activities, from collecting samples in muddy ponds to performing DNA extractions in the lab to processing sequence data on the computer.

Prerequisites: Prior experience with microbiological or molecular research, computer programming, or bioinformatics are welcomed, but not required. BIOL107 or equivalent is required. Must be interested in amphibian conservation.

How should students express interest in this project?  Students interested in this position should send me an email indicating why you are interested in this project and ask any questions that come to mind. Please also briefly describe any relevant experience that you may have.

This is an 8-week project running from June 7 – July 31