My lab uses zebrafish to gain insight into genetic and molecular mechanisms that govern establishment of body plans and physiological systems required for survival in a dynamic environment. Environmental stressors, including man-made and naturally occurring toxicants, nutrition, temperature, and climate-induced environmental changes are powerful effector stimuli capable of altering evolutionarily conserved molecular mechanisms that regulate formation of the vertebrate body plan and physiological systems on which organisms depend for maintaining homeostasis and adapting to change. Specifically, my lab studies how environmental stressors perturb critical biological pathways leading to adverse outcomes, and the genetic and biochemical strategies used by organisms to resist environmentally induced changes. Projects in my lab include uncovering effects from metals and metalloid exposures on the development of the immune and nervous systems and neurodevelopment during embryogenesis, the role of diet and dietary deficiencies in metabolic disorders of bone and adipocyte differentiation, and aberrant activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor pathway on craniofacial development.
These projects are united by the desire to answer fundamental questions in exposure science: how do early life exposures to adverse environments elicit changes in gene regulation and protein function that interfere with an organism’s ability to develop along normal parameters and predispose it to the onset of disease, and what genetic and molecular traits lessen the impact of exposures on development and health in individuals with lower susceptibilities to environmental toxicants?
In addition to core projects, my lab has a standing interest in the standardization of exposure protocols for implementation in the zebrafish embryonic and larval model for toxicology research.