Research in our lab focuses on one of the fundamental questions in evolutionary anddevelopmental biology - how signaling transduction pathways control the gene regulatory networks that specify and pattern territories along the major embryonic axes during early development. We are particularly interested in both the early regulatory mechanism(s) that activate the anterior neuroectoderm and the role of a Wnt signaling network we identified that appears to specify and pattern the anterior-posterior axis in a variety of deuterostome embryos (vertebrates, urochordates, cephalochordates, hemichordates and echinoderms). We use a combination of molecular manipulations, high-throughput genome-wide assays, gene regulatory network analysis and classical embryology to study the evolution of these fundamental developmental mechanisms inechinoderm (sea urchin) and hemichordate (acorn worm) embryos. These animals and vertebrates share a relatively recent common ancestor. Thus, our studies may lead to the identification of core regulatory processes that specify and pattern vertebrate embryos, including humans, along the anterior-posterior axis.