Deirdre Lyons, PI
Deirdre (Dede) became interested in questions about the origins and evolution of animal body plans as an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College working with Stan Rachootin and Rachel Fink, and as a research assistant at UCLA under David Jacobs and Ruth Gates. She got her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology at U.C. Berkeley studying the control of asymmetric cell division in the leech Helobdella with David Weisblat. For her post-doc she joined David McClay’s lab at Duke University to study Gene Regulatory Networks in sea urchin embryogenesis. She took the MBL Embryology course in 2009 and began a long term collaboration studying the embryology of the slipper snail Crepidula with Jonathan Henry. Dede established her own research group in the Marine Biology Research Division of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the Fall of 2016 and there she and her group study a range of echinoderm and spiralian animals using comparative gene regulatory network analysis, live cell imaging, and functional studies.
Vanessa Barone, Postdoc
I wonder at the variety of animal forms and the many different ways an embryo can develop. How do embryonic cells organise into such complex structures? How do they communicate and what are the cues they use to take decisions on the function and shape they will acquire? And how do new shapes evolve to produce new animal forms? To answer these questions I focus on how the mechanical interactions between embryonic cells determine what cell type they will become, linking the shape and function of tissues. I use live imaging of whole embryos and cultured cells to observe cell differentiation in real time: coupling experimentation and theoretical modelling I hope to understand how cell differentiation is regulated by cell mechanics. Vanessa recently received a Human Frontier Science Program Postdoc Fellowship.
Hereroa Johnston, Postdoc
Hereroa’s research focuses on understanding the logic behind the unfolding of genomic information, acting as a blueprint for building complex functional organisms, notably by studying gene regulatory networks (GRNs). Under the mentorship of Eric Röttinger during his PhD, Hereroa dissected the gene interactions underlying head reformation of the cnidarian Nematostella vectensis, an emerging model in the regeneration field. Moving to another marine invertebrate, the nudibranch, Berghia stephanieae, Hereroa joined the Lyons lab team to investigate the GRNs involved during early development in molluscs. Specifically, to study the neurogenesis of this promising embryonic model in the context of neuronal circuitry, as part of a BRAIN Initiative U01 grant from the NIH NINDS.
Grant Batzel, Graduate Student
Having endured many snowy winters in the Midwest and then in New England, Grant attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he graduated with a B.S. in Marine Biology. During his junior year, he studied biomineralization in marine worms as part of an undergraduate research project in the lab of Mike Hadfield. This sparked an interest in calcareous structures in marine invertebrates and how those structures develop. After graduating in 2015, Grant continued in Mike’s lab as a research assistant, before starting his doctoral work with Professor Lyons at SIO. During his free time, he enjoys scuba diving, intertidal collecting, and spending time with his cat.
Park Masterson, Lab Assistant
Park is currently a lab assistant in the Marine Biology Research Division at Scripps institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. In the Lyons Lab she works with nudibranchs, snails, and echinoderms. She graduated with her Bachelor's degree in Biology from Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minnesota in 2017. Prior to working in the Lyons Lab she worked with the San Diego Police Department's Forensic Biology Lab, learning the techniques involved in the identification, processing, and analysis of human DNA in a criminal case work setting. She also assisted in the lab of Dr. Mary Montgomery at Macalester College, aiming to tag maternal effect genes skn-1 and glh-1 in C. elegans using Cas9 based gene editing. Having played four years of collegiate basketball herself, outside of the lab Park coaches for the San Diego Sol Basketball Club as well as working as an assistant coach for the Rancho Bernardo High School Varsity Girls Basketball Team.
Carl Whitesel, undergraduate
Carl is a second-year undergraduate student at UC San Diego, studying a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology. He is currently working to culture and study Berghia stephanieae, an aeolid nudibranch. Research interests include phenotypic plasticity, microevolution, developmental metamorphosis, and habitat level ecology.