Current Post Doctoral Research
I studied the wound healing process in cnidarians. Using homology-based searches of genomic and transcriptomic datasets, I identified putative wound-healing genes in the coral Pocillopora damicornis, and the sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis. I created a stress enriched transcriptome for Pocillopora damicornis which is publically available at www.PocilloporaBase.org. The figure to the right depicts the database structure which was used to create PocilloporaBase (Traylor-Knowles, et al, 2011).
I also characterized the molecular evolution and wound-induced expression of the transcription factor Grainyhead (Grh), a gene required for the reestablishment of the epithelial barrier following wounding in triploblasts. I discovered that the motif architecture of the GRH protein was established prior to the evolutionary split between cnidarians and triploblastic animals (Traylor-Knowles, et al, 2010). The figure to the right is the phylogeny of the LSF/GRH gene family.
Future Research Goals
I want to utilize the tools of genomics and cell biology to better inform conservation efforts. As more resources become available, mapping and exploring the cellular pathways involved in coral immunity, stress response, wound healing and resilience are becoming more tractable. Using genomics as a discovery tool, genes and proteins can be targeted, and further investigation using molecular techniques can be done. I believe that through work like this, "biomarkers" and diagnostics can be developed to better understand the health of coral reefs.