Tyrone Hayes - The Frog Scientist

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Environmental Studies

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Tyrone Hayes - The Frog Scientist

Leopard Frog

African Clawed Frog

Born July 29, 1967

Tyrone Hayes:The Frog Scientist

Dugway Pond

Save the FrogsAfter Tyrone graduated from Harvard in 1989, a group of scientists warned the world about a terrifying discovery. About a third of amphibians (1,586 out of 5,743 species) are threatened with extinction. Over 100 species have already become extinct since 1980. It was suspected that chemicals called pesticides were causing strange deformities in the frog, and making them more vulnerable to parasites. These pesticides can be found in grass, flowers, and other gardening areas. They are even sprayed on vegetables that we eat! As a dedicated biologist and herptologist, Dr. Hayes decided to do some research himself. He wanted to see if a specific pesticide, called Atrazine, was safe or not. In the book, The Frog Scientist by Pamela S Turner, Tyrone says, "It's used in corn, the largest crop in the United States. All that Atrazine makes its way into surface and ground water. It ends up in places very far fom cornfields."

His Big ExperimentTyrone created a hypothesis, which was that the amount of atrazine distributed into the world is causing the extinction of frogs. He conducted an ongoing experiment for Syngenta, to see if their chemicals were harmful to the environment. In his laboratory, he raised African Clawed Frogs, which are frogs that only live under water. He raised some in atrazine contaminated water (the experimental group), and kept the others (the control group) in regular water. Over time, they both appeared to physically develop the same way. There were not any noticable differences. However, on the inside, the experimental group was greatly impacted. Male frogs were having their hormones change into female hormones, causing them to be incapable of reproduction. This is why frogs are becoming extinct! Dr. Hayes submitted his work back to Syngenta, the company who makes atrazine, but they would not let him publish his findings. He decided to travel to Dugway Pond in Wyoming and take his experiment even further. He chose this specific area because long befor the Syngenta experiment, he was testing the waters of this pond yearly. He was testing the waters for signs of atrazine; sometimes he would find it in the water, and others he would not. However, during the times that he found atrazine to be present in the water, the Leopard frogs were feminized. Like any successful scientist, Tyrone re-tested his hypothesis and found his second experiment to prove the same as his first. He continued to research and follow their growth and concluded that the atrazine had the same effect on them as it did on the African Clawed Frogs. He published his findings and his hard work, and now he is recognized as the man who proved to be independent, persistent, and dedicated, despite the fact that others tried to stop him from helping the environment! Unfortunately, the United States has yet to ban this chemical; but, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't treat our environment differently. *Think about some other things that could be negatively impacting our environment.*

About the ScientistDr. Tyrone Hayes always had a love for amphibians, which are cold-blooded animals that can live in the land and the water, such as: frogs, toads, or lizards.As a child, his parents always supported his dreams, and even let him keep frogs, snakes, and lizards on his front porch! Besides collecting animals, he also did experiments with them. He once performed an experiment that showed how anole lizards had to be awake to change color. This experiment was so great that he won his state science fair!

Look at our colors!

Tyrone Hayes' laboratory discovered that Atrazine causes deformities in frogs by affecting their chemical hormones, and changing their insides from male to female. This greatly impacts their reproduction rate, which is why they are becoming extinct. As a biologist, he is also concerned about how this affects humans. Tyrone found that atrazine puts humans at a higher risk for prostate and breast cancer, especially people who work in agricultural environments. How scary!

"Environmental health and human health are one and the same."-Dr. Tyrone Hayes

MotivationDr. Tyrone Hayes grew up in a racially segregated town named Columbia, South Carolina. He had to experience many things, such as being born in a hospital "only" for African Americans. When he got accepted into Harvard, he felt uncomfortable because most of the students were not African American. He felt out of place and detached. On top of that, he could barely afford college, and could not find a laboratory job, other than washing test tubes. This really put a burden on his shoulders, as he was trying to excel with good grades. He was just about to drop out until he met Bruce Waldman, a Harvard professor who studies amphibians. Bruce invited Tyrone to be a part of his research about wood frogs. He was studying how temperature affects the development of wood frogs. Because of him, Tyrone continued with school and graduated with honors in 1989.

I am a Biologist and a Herpetologist. I study frogs, along with many other living organisms. I have made an impacting dent in the environmental research of pesticides, and I am slowly trying to stop the extinction of frogs. I am also currently a professor at the University of California, teaching students who love science just as much as I do!


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