• Title Associate Professor of Biology
  • Education PhD, University of Chicago
  • Web Address http://people.bu.edu/jrf3/FinnertyLab/
  • Phone 617-353-6984
  • Area of Interest Evolutionary and ecological developmental biology; evolutionary and ecological genomics; marine biodiversity; global change biology; coral conservation.
  • CV

Current Research

My lab tackles fundamental questions in biodiversity using an interdisciplinary approach that combines genomics, molecular biology, developmental biology, organismal biology, and field ecology. Our primary study organisms are coastal marine invertebrates—sea anemones, corals, and jellyfishes. We played a leading role in developing the starlet sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis, into a model system for genomics and developmental biology. By comparing “Stella” to “higher animals,” we gain insight into the early evolution of animal genomes and body plans. By comparing the free-living Nematostella to the closely related parasitic anemone, Edwardsiella lineata, we gain insight into the ecology and evolution of parasitism. By comparing the performance of different strains of Nematostella under exposure to environmental stressors using genomic and developmental assays, we gain insights into the evolution of stress tolerances. In recent years, my lab has increasingly focused on the issue of coral resilience in the face of global change, conducting research in Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve, Belize. In particular, our work helped to reveal the importance of mangroves as habitat for many so-called “reef corals.” We are currently working to understand how generalist corals are able to occupy such diverse habitats as reefs and mangroves, and what role these generalist species will play in the reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds of the future.


Selected Publications

  • Scavo Lord K, Lesneski KC, Buston P, Davies S, D’Aloia C, and Finnerty JR (2023). Rampant asexual reproduction and limited dispersal in a mangrove population of the coral Porites divaricata. Proc Royal Soc Lond B 290:20231070.
  • Lee JC, Prokopyeva N, Secor R, Edelson E, Sangermano A, and Finnerty JR (2023). Temperature and salinity affect development of the parasitic sea anemone, Edwardsiella lineata, potentially limiting its impact as a biological control. J Parasitology 109:574-579.
  • Scavo Lord K, Lesneski KC, Bengtsson ZA, Kuhn KM, Madin J, Cheung B, Ewa R, Taylor JF, Burmester EM, Morey J, Kaufman L, and Finnerty JR (2020). Multi-year viability of a reef coral population living on mangrove roots suggests an important role for mangroves in the broader habitat mosaic of corals. Front Mar Sci 7:377.
  • Friedman LE, Gilmore TD, and Finnerty JR (2018). Intraspecific variation in oxidative stress tolerance in a model cnidarian: Differences in peroxide sensitivity between and within populations of Nematostella vectensis. PLoS ONE 13:e0188265.
  • Reitzel AM, Chu T, Edquist S, Genovese C, Church C, Tarrant AM, and Finnerty JR (2013). Physiological and developmental responses to temperature by the estuarine sea anemone Nematostella vectensis: evidence for local adaptation to high temperatures. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 484:115-130.
  • Putnam NH, Srivastava M, Hellsten U, Dirks B, Chapman J, Salamov A, Terry A, Shapiro H, Lindquist E, Kapitonov VV, Jurka J, Genikhovich G, Grigoriev I, JGI Sequencing Team, Steele RE, Finnerty JR, Technau U, Martindale MQ, and Rokhsar DS (2007). Sea anemone genome reveals the gene repertoire and genomic organization of the eumetazoan ancestor. Science 317:86-94.
  • Ryan JF, Mazza ME, Pang K, Matus DQ, Baxevanis A, Martindale MQ, and Finnerty JR (2007). Pre-bilaterian origins of the Hox cluster and the Hox code: Evidence from the sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis. PLoS ONE 2:e153.
  • Finnerty JR, Pang P, Burton K, Paulson D, and Martindale MQ (2004). Homology of Bilateral Symmetry in Cnidaria and Bilateria: Axial expression of Hox genes and Dpp in the sea anemone Nematostella. Science 304:1335-1337.

Courses Taught:

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