SDB Emerging Research Organisms Grant

The Society for Developmental Biology Emerging Research Organisms Grant was established in 2016 to fund projects aimed at developing techniques, approaches, community resources, collaborations, and new lines of research to study developmental mechanisms in non-traditional systems. The types of projects supported by SDB Emerging Research Organisms Grant are those that would not be funded by a granting agency due to their preliminary nature. The goal is to provide resources to promote investigations into new systems that will provide unique information that informs and extends our ideas about how developmental processes occur and are regulated. Graduate student, postdoctoral fellow and faculty SDB members are all eligible. Deadlines are December 1 and May 31. (Please note, if two grants are awarded from the December 1 deadline, then we will not be taking applications for May 31. Therefore, we strongly advise you to submit your application by the December 1 deadline). In years in which the deadline falls on a weekend, applications will be accepted until 11:59 PM (ET) of the following Monday.

2023 Submission Guidelines

Past Recipients

2022 Recipients

Allison Edgar headshot
Allison Edgar
Postdoctoral Fellow, The Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience
Advisor: Mark Q. Martindale
Transforming ctenophores into a tractable system for functional genomics
Ctenophores are a classical model for embryology and regeneration and are ideally phylogenetically placed to reveal basic biological insights as the sister group to all other animals. However, functional molecular experiments have been impeded by limitations of animal husbandry. Our new culturing techniques shorten the generation time of the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi to <2 weeks. Furthermore, our pilot data suggest that electroporation may permit manipulation of gene expression in ctenophores at several life stages. We will combine these two advances to construct the first stable transgenic line of ctenophores: M. leidyi that ubiquitously express the photoconvertible fluorescent protein Kaede. This transgenic line will be useful immediately for long-term lineage tracing and dissecting the origins of cells participating in the adult regeneration process. Once developed, the method will allow us to establish other transgenic lines to enable novel insights into ctenophore biology.      
Ben Cox headshot
Ben Cox
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Davis
Advisor: Celina Juliano
Hydra vulgaris as a model for understanding the role of progenitor invasion during tissue regeneration
Cell invasion through extracellular matrix (ECM) is an essential process in development of animal tissues and has been extensively studied in both normal developmental and pathological (e.g., cancer) contexts. However, invasion and ECM dynamics have scarcely been studied during animal regeneration, despite injury creating a need to reconstruct complex tissues. I am using the freshwater cnidarian Hydra vulgaris, which can regenerate its entire body plan after injury, to understand how two processes—1) programmed breakdown and synthesis of new ECM components that occur after head amputation and 2) subsequent migration of stem cells from ectoderm to endoderm—are essential to successful regeneration. Through high-resolution imaging, pharmacological and siRNA-mediated manipulations, I plan to show how regulation of ECM proteins and matrix-degrading enzymes are essential for progenitors to invade and replenish mature cell populations lost to injury and for the proper reconstruction of the Hydra body plan.
Yan Gong headshot
Yan Gong
Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University
Advisor: Elena Kramer
Characterizing cellular dynamics during Aquilegia petal development
The collective and collaborative behaviors of individual cells pattern tissues and determine the outcomes of fully developed organs. Here, using Aquilegia petal spur development as a model, we will interrogate how coordinated behaviors of individual cells govern organ development. Each Aquilegia petal undergoes a rapid three-dimensional elaboration to form a hollow tubular pocket that will become the nectar spur. This rapid transformation is driven by localized cell divisions and anisotropic cell expansion. As a result of this coordinated elaboration, the variation of the nectar spur structure within the same flower is minimal. However, the spurs of different Aquilegia species exhibit striking size diversity. The mechanisms behind this robust but variable development are unknown. By developing a three-dimensional live imaging system, we aim to uncover the principles of cell division and expansion regulation during Aquilegia petal development and establish a novel model for studying the formation of complex organ structures
Bogdan Sieriebriennikov headshot
Bogdan Sieriebriennikov
Postdoctoral Fellow, New York University
Advisor: Claude Desplan
Developmental mechanisms underlying the hyperexpansion of the associative learning center in the brain of the jumping ant Many animals have evolved large and complex brains. While the neocortex of mammals is a notorious example of brain expansion, studying the evolutionary changes in developmental mechanisms that generate different number and composition of neurons can be more easily done in small, yet highly performing brains of insects. I am focusing on the center of associative learning called the mushroom body, which is small and relatively simply organized in flies but is large and elaborate in some other insects, such as bees and ants. I will perform systematic stainings against mushroom body cell type-specific markers in the ant H. saltator to establish their exact birth sequence. This will help me determine whether the mushroom body expansion in ants has been fueled by diversification of a large pool of stem cells, which simultaneously produce different neurons, or whether every individual stem cell generates a more diverse set of neurons.