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2020 Project Proposal

Gonadotropin-like receptors in cnidarians

Jodi Schwarz (Biology)   

Corals reproduce in highly synchronized spawning events that are regulated by seasonal and lunar cycles, and which also may be regulated through detection of chemical or hormonal signals in the environment. Yet nothing is known about chemical/hormonal signals that might play roles in regulating the spawning event, nor the cell receptors that respond to those signals. In vertebrate animals, the molecular control of gamete release involves  LGR receptor proteins (Leucine-rich repeat containing G-protein coupled receptor) that function as receptors for glycoprotein hormones such as luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). In previous work we have found that some corals and other cnidarians express LGR genes, including homologs that are closely related to receptors of reproductive glycoprotein hormones. We also have found that reproductively mature sea anemones express an LGR homolog in mesentarial tissues associated with the development of gametes. A primary goals of this URSI project will be to explore the impact of reproductive hormone exposure on anemone spawning behavior. A second goal will be to identify LGR homologs in other cnidarian species, using bioinformatic techniques, and explore the expression of those genes.


  1. Animal care: this research project depends on live animals that require daily care (1-2 hours a day M-F and occasional Saturdays). Applicants must be willing to commit to this work and to communicate/coordinate ahead of time to find a replacement in the event that they can't come in one day.
  2. Experimental sampling time points: Some experiments may require early morning or late night sampling points. Applicants must be willing to share in this responsibility and to coordinate schedules so that sampling points can be taken.
  3. Previous training: because this project involves work with live animals, molecular lab work, and bioinformatics work, applicants should demonstrate that they have received training/experience in at least two of these areas. This experience might be from a lab class. For example, if you have taken a Genetics class at Vassar, then you have received training in bioinformatics, and you should describe that training.

How should students express interest in this project?
To apply, please send an email that (1) describes your interest in this project, (2) explains how your background and experience make you a good candidate for this project, and (3) explains how you meet the pre-requisites. All applicants who meet the basic requirements will be contacted to schedule a short interview.

This is an 8 week project running from May 27-July 17.