Understanding the evolution of the great diversity of animals is a major goal of biology. Research in my lab concentrates on developing an accurate tree of evolutionary relationships of the animal kingdom and on experiments to determine the genotypic changes involved in specific, well characterised morphological changes within the animals.
Biologists would like to understand how evolution has happened in an historical sense - which characteristics arose in which lineages, when they arose and hopefully even an adaptive explanation of why they arose. All of these questions depend absolutely on mapping the characters of interest onto an accurate phylogenetic tree of the animal kingdom and we are using a variety of molecular approaches to refine the animal tree.
We would also like to know how evolution works in a more general sense; we would like to go beyond the neo-Darwinian explanation of adaptation through selection on random mutations to discover exactly what kind of changes at the level of the genotype have given rise to the changes we see in phenotype. These effects of genotype on adult phenotype are mediated through the organisms program of development from egg to adult and these latter questions constitute the program of research now called evolutionary developmental biology. The second aim of the group is to undertake a programme of comparative developmental work in different animal groups using modern molecular genetic methods.