I am interested in the evolution and development of vertebrate morphology, with an emphasis on the development of ecologically-relevant traits. I focus on organogenesis because organ development is a highly integrative process in which I can simultaneously explore evolution, development, and ecology. Currently I am a graduate student in the Hanken Lab at Harvard University
Lung development in lungless salamanders. What are the developmental and genetic mechanisms that account for lunglessness in salamanders? Most salamanders have undergone an evolutionary loss of lungs. There is little known about how such a loss is genetically or developmentally achieved.
Pleiotropic interactions between the lungs and heart in the development of the cardio-pulmonary system. Does lung loss have pleiotropic effects on the development of the heart? Despite clear circulatory changes that must accompany lung loss, there is little information on the associated changes to the heart and how these changes may be developmentally patterned.
Development of the Cranial Placodes and Ganglia in Zebrafish. As a research technician in the Nechiporuk Lab at Oregon Health and Science University I focused on the contribution of neural crest cells and cell lineages expressing particular transcription factors to the epibranchial placodes and ganglia in zebrafish. The epibranchial placodes are ectodermal thickenings that go on to contribute to the development of a subset of cranial sensory ganglia in the peripheral nervous system known as the epibranchial ganglia. I labeled cells by UV photoconversion, then determined whether these cells were incorporated into the placodes and ganglia and created high-resolution fate maps of placode and ganglia-contributing cells. I found that a domain of cells expressing one transcription factor is segregated early into otic vesicle and epibranchial placode fates and I mapped the precise regions that particular cells in each placode are derived from. I also constructed a fate map of neural crest cell localization to the cranial sensory ganglia.
Sexual Differentiation in Threespine Stickleback Fish. As an undergraduate and a post-baccalaureate fellow in Bob Kaplan and Maryanne McClellan's labs at Reed College, I investigated the process of sexual differentiation in threespine stickleback. I used molecular genotyping with histology to show that threespine stickleback are one of two confirmed teleost fish species in which genetic females display an increase in primordial germ cells (PGCs) as the first indication of sex differentiation. We also found that PGC number dimorphisms in early development are correlated with divergent life history strategies in different stickleback populations. You can find the resulting paper here.