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.

2024 Submission Guidelines

Past Recipients

2023 Recipients

Heather Bruce headshot
Heather Bruce
Postdoctoral Fellow, Marine Biological Laboratory
Advisor: Nipam Patel
The garden millipede Oxidus gracilis– The first tractable myriapod model system
In contrast to all other arthropods - insects (beetles, etc.), crustaceans (shrimps, etc.), and chelicerates (spiders, etc.) - the myriapods (millipedes, centipedes, etc.) surprisingly do not have a single, lab-tractable model. Despite the lack of a suitable model, there is keen interest in their many unique traits. My own research intriguingly suggests that, despite sharing an aquatic last common ancestor 540 million years ago, myriapod and insect tracheae each evolved via the independent internalization of the same ancestral gill. I am therefore developing the garden millipede Oxidus gracilis as a model system. Oxidus breeds prolifically and year-round in lab conditions, reaches sexual maturity in four months, and lays clutches of ~200 embryos that hatch in 10 days. This project will generate embryonic and adult transcriptomes to facilitate in situ hybridization chain reaction (HCR), CRISPR-Cas9, and single cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq) studies to establish Oxidus as the first lab-tractable myriapod model.
Lisa Mesrop headshot
Lisa Mesrop
Graduate Student, University of California, Santa Barbara
Advisor: Todd Oakley
Establishing the bioluminescent ostracod, Vargula tsujii, as a model system to study the developmental genetics of novelty
Complex organs may often evolve when new cell types originate and further diversify into specialized cell types. Although we know differentiated cells arise through organismal development,  the developmental regulatory mechanisms that generate novel cell types remain largely enigmatic. Furthermore, identifying truly novel cell types unique to one lineage is challenging.  Here, I will use advanced single-cell sequencing techniques to study the molecular regulation and development of a well-documented case of truly novel cell types that make up the light organ of bioluminescent ostracods. Using Vargula tsujii as a model, I will characterize cell-type specific markers of the novel cell types and the developmental precursors that differentiate the novel cell types during the development of the light organ. A comprehensive list of candidate genes at the resolution of single cells will be a necessary step to advance Vagula tsujii to genetic manipulation trials and establish the system as a model for developmental genetics of novelty.
Emma Rangel-Huerta headshot
Emma Rangel-Huerta
Postdoctoral Fellow, Stowers Institute for Medical Research
Advisor: Matthew Gibson
The rice coral Montipora capitata as a new model for developmental biology
Reef-building corals are essential for diverse marine ecosystems around the world. Sessile adult corals achieve broad distribution through a swimming larval stage. While it is known that coral larvae selectively settle onto specific substrates, the molecular mechanisms inducing the morphogenetic transition of larvae into sessile adults remain poorly understood. Which environmental cues guide planulae to suitable substrates? Furthermore, what genetic mechanisms trigger the cellular and molecular events underlying the larva-polyp transition? These are some of the questions I would like to answer using novel molecular approaches. A deeper understanding of these processes will reveal new insights into the evolution of animal development and could be crucial for coral reef restoration. As part of the Gibson laboratory, I will participate in establishing the rice coral Montipora capitata as a new model by using sophisticated mesocosm aquarium systems that simulate the environment of the Hawaiian reefs where Montipora corals live and grow.