I am a developmental biologist interested in how evolutionary change to genes and genomes can feed through alterations to developmental mechanisms and hence to the evolution of new animal form. A particular focus has been the evolution of the nervous system, and especially the origins of increased cell number, new cell types and augmented patterning mechanisms in the vertebrates. I also have a long-standing fascination with how the left and right sides of animal embryos become developmentally different such that internal organs can be asymmetrically distributed.
I have expertise in the embryogenesis, genes and genomics of a wide range of study organisms, from sponges, molluscs and annelid worms, to vertebrate model systems. Much of my current work is focused on sea squirts and amphioxus, relatively simple invertebrates that share key aspects of their genomes and development with vertebrates, and with lampreys, members of the earliest-diverging vertebrate lineage and a window into the biology of the ancestral vertebrate.