What Can Frogs Tell Us About Childhood Adversity? Whitman Fellow Sally Seraphin Explores

To study this at the MBL, Seraphin exposes frog embryos to stressors just a few days after they’re laid. In the absence of menacing snakes in the lab, Seraphin simulates snake-like vibration by gently rubbing the surface of the eggs until they hatch, which occurs up to three days earlier than eggs that are left undisturbed. Studying the brains, immune systems, and behavior of frogs that have hatched early could offer “insights into which brain-body systems are driving the timing and tempo of life history under stress,” says Seraphin.

Though in her lab at Trinity College she has studied chimpanzees, rhesus monkeys, and humans, Seraphin was excited to explore new model organisms at MBL this summer.

Seraphin first visited MBL when she was an REU student in nearby Buzzards Bay, and returned last summer as a SEE-Diversity (Scholarships to Enhance and Empower Diversity) workshop participant. 

“The E.E. Just Fellowship provided the perfect opportunity for me to return to MBL and learn transferable skills and techniques that have contributed to [research] success with Xenopus to my neotropical frogs,” she says. The MBL is the home of the National Xenopus Resource, a national facility for maintaining Xenopus lines for biomedical research, and for training in their use.

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