My laboratory is interested in the phylogenetic origins of embryonic tissue morphogenesis, and the pathways by which ancient morphogenetic processes, such as gastrulation, have been modified through evolution. To determine how morphogenetic movements and cell shape changes are organized in developing tissues, my laboratory utilizes a combination of cell biological, genetic, and imaging/visualization approaches, to determine how gene hierarchies enact signaling and mechanical interactions between embryonic cells.
We are currently studying the cellular and genetic basis of gastrulation and segmentation in the zebrafish embryo, a widely used model organism for understanding vertebrate development. The optically transparent zebrafish embryo, which is amenable to both genetic manipulation and vital fluorescent labeling, provides an ideal system to link the cytological dynamics of embryonic cells to the formation of embryonic tissues. By comparing the cytological dynamics of zebrafish development to the early embryogenesis of other vertebrates, we are also uncovering new information about how cell identity and morphogenesis are specified in genetically encoded developmental programs.