Rakhay Burtzlaff

My research is focused on the effect of environmental factors on the physiology of moon jellyfish. Specifically, the process of reverse-development, which allows the jellyfish to go back on it’s lifecycle to repair damage. My goal is to understand the mechanisms of organisms with ancient body plans through observation of external structures, to eventually study the genetic factors that make them that way.

      Maddie Albert

      I am a fourth-year undergraduate student currently working towards a B.S. in Global Disease Biology here at UC Davis. My interests include comparative biology, molecular evolution, and marine biology. I am extremely interested in learning about the interdependencies between organisms and the environment, specifically relating to climate change and a species’ evolutionary biology. I have always had a deep fascination (obsession) with cnidarian species and their biology. I am super excited to be studying these critters in the lab this year!

          John LaRue

          One of the most interesting questions in Evolutionary Biology is how changes in DNA sequence can lead to the evolution of entirely new morphological structures and body plans. I’m interested in the patterns and processes of molecular evolution that drive the morphological diversity we see in the biosphere and in the fossil record. I want to investigate the relative roles of phylogenetic constraints, gene regulation, and gene duplication in the evolution of morphological novelties. To answer these questions, I intend to integrate developmental experiments with comparative genomic and phylogenetic analyses in Cnidaria. I also maintain a general interest in the evolution of animal multicellularity and the role of regeneration in Cnidarian development.

              Liyu Mekonnen

              Originally from the Bay Area, Liyu is an undergraduate student currently working towards a B.S in Chemistry and a minor in Geology. Her interests have always lived within the walls of science and history, leading her curiosity to the development of early life and the geochemical evidence of said development. She is working alongside team members Chris and Tessa to further the dated dialogue concerning early demosponges and ancient algae by means of biomarker data and genetic phylogeny. Liyu is beyond excited to contribute to the unfinished puzzle that is early life evolution.