I am currently a PhD student in the Lowe Lab at the Hopkin’s Marine Station.
The lab is interested in the evolution of body plans, particularly the early evolution of deuterostomes and the origin of our own phylum, the chordates. Descriptive and functional techniques are used to study the development of hemichordates and a range of echinoderm and cnidarian species.
My current work involves studying an indirect developing enteropneust hemichordate worm Schizocardium californicum with distinct larval and adult body plans. While which the most common developmental strategy in many animal phyla, much of what we know about development comes from direct-developing species. Across metazoan diversity, some indirect developing animals remodel and transform an existing larval body into the adult body plan. Many questions remain in regard to the general mechanisms of these processes. Do the larval cells of indirect developing animals have a distinct larval fate or trajectory? In this scheme of indirect development, larval-specific cells must be eliminated, and new cells must proliferate to form the adult body plan. Or, is it possible that larval cell types retain developmental plasticity and have the capacity to differentiate into the appropriate cells of the adult body plan? In an animal that transforms an existing body from larva to adult, these transitions provide a window into tissue turnover and remodeling, an important focus of cell and developmental biology.
A personal goal is to emphasize the importance of exploration of biodiversity, and that even in a strange group of animals such as the echinoderms, conservation and preservation play an important role in advancing fundamental cell biology research.