Experimental Embryology and Evo-Devo
Addressing fundamental problems in biological pattern formation
We are interested in a broad range of problems associated with the cellular, molecular, and evolutionary basis of biological pattern formation. My lab utilizes a variety of molecular and “classical” techniques of microinjection, cell labeling, ablation, and transplantation, to address fundamental problems in developmental biology in a broad phylogenetic context. One area of interest is to understand the evolution of biological novelties and the increase in biological “complexity”. These include the molecular origins of presumably rare evolutionary events such as the formation of the “middle” germ layer (mesoderm), the evolution of elements of the nervous system in the Metazoa, and the evolution of unique cell types (cnidocytes, colloblasts, sensory cells, etc.). Many of these studies utilize cnidarians (the starlet sea anemone Nematostella vectensis) and ctenophores (the lobate Mnemiopsis leidyi), both of whose genomes have been sequenced. We continue to develop functional techniques in these systems as well as identify new models to uncover conserved and novel molecular mechanisms underlying cell type diversification.