The Gibson Lab uses a broad range of contemporary techniques—from genome editing to virtual spatial transcriptomics—to investigate the fundamental cellular and molecular bases for key events during animal evolution. Over the last decade the lab has primarily focused on the starlet sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis. Currently, the lab is also developing new approaches to study the biology of corals, close relatives of Nematostella.
At Stowers, the Gibson Lab investigates the developmental and regenerative cell biology of Nematostella, a member of the phylum Cnidaria that includes jellyfish and corals. The team has leveraged their previous expertise in Drosophila genetics to pioneer rigorous new experimental approaches in Nematostella, applying genetic methods to gain functional insights. Among numerous technical advances, they were the first lab to successfully use CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing and shRNA-mediated knockdown in these animals, laying the groundwork for researchers to apply these methods in related cnidarians.
The Gibson Lab is currently extending its research focus into the biology of reef-building corals—iconic colonial cnidarians that account for 25% of global marine biodiversity. For these efforts, the team utilizes two coral species, the Pacific Rice Coral, Montipora capitata, and the Staghorn Coral, Acropora cervicornis, in addition to continued research with Nematostella.