Our group is interested in how genomes control cell fate decisions during embryonic development. We take systems-level approaches to construct Gene Regulatory Networks (GRNs) of development. We want to understand how GRNs evolve and thus how the evolution of genomes leads to the evolution of morphology. We especially focus our research on (i) how gene regulation has evolved (which includes evolution of GRNs and the evolution of sub circuits of genes), (ii) how transcription factor proteins evolve biochemical differences in function, and (iii) More recently we’re thinking about how GRNs become “coopted” for regeneration.


Here’s some GRN sub circuits from the various species of echinoderms: How do they change, how are they same and what does this mean for their morphologies?

Our lab uses a range of echinoderm species as model systems. These organisms are especially well suited to high throughput analyses as their embryos are easily reared and injected with a range of perturbation reagents.  Their overall simple development also allows us to achieve a systems level understanding of development and evolution. We work with multiple species of echinoderms, including sea urchins, Stronglyocentrotus purpuratus, Lytechinus variegatus, the sea sea star Patiria miniata and the sea cucumber Parastichopus parvimensis.

Some of the Echinoderms we work with and their phylogenetic relationship

These larvae also show a remarkable ability to regenerate.  This is allowing us unravel the mechanisms of regeneration and especially of there are conserved processes of regeneration.

We try to not be limited by approaches and technologies: therefore we work in molecular biology, genomics, biochemistry, microscopy, high throughput sequencing, embryology and computational biology. We’re very collaborative because we always want to find out how to do new things and we like working with diverse people.  

If you find this work interesting you may also consider joining the PanAmEvoDevo Society. We have great meetings in great locations!