Kusumi Lab

Welcome to the Kusumi Lab. We use the power of genome biology to advance the conservation of threatened species and study the evolution of reptiles. We are also committed to advancing inclusion in science and fostering the success of future scientists from diverse backgrounds in genome biology.

Evolution and Conservation

There are about 30,000 amniote vertebrate species, and nearly 10,000 of these species are reptiles. Reptiles display incredible diversity of morphological and physiological adaptations to their environments, compared with mammals and birds, but they have not been the focus on genomic or molecular studies.

We have deciphered the genome of the Mojave desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), a hallmark species of the desert southwest that is threatened with habitat loss and disease. This recent work is described in this video. We are completing the genome assembly of the Sonoran desert tortoise (Gopherus morafkai) and using these data to study the effects of changes in the Colorado River and monsoon precipitation on the evolution of these species across the southwestern US.

The Anolis lizard genus is one of the most speciose among vertebrates, and we have carried out morphological and genomic studies of a number of species, including the grass anole (Anolis auratus, shown above), the slender anole (A. apletophallus), and the Central American giant anole (A. frenatus).

We are currently studying the effects of landscape and climatic evolution on adaptation and diversification of plants and animals on the Baja California peninsula, Mexico. As part of this effort, we are working on assembling the genomes of the Baja California brush lizard (Urosaurus nigricaudus) and the brittlebush (Encelia farinosa). More information on the NSF-funded Baja GeoGenomics project is available here.


Regeneration is a conserved trait among vertebrates, except among birds and mammals, including humans, which have mostly lost this ability. We are using comparative evolutionary approaches to study how reptiles are able to regrow appendages with complex tissues including the spinal cord, peripheral nervous system, cartilage, blood vessels, and muscle groups.  Our work has focused on the green anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis) and the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). We are working to identify conserved genes and pathways involved in this remarkable regenerative process, with the ultimate goal of reactivating these processes in humans for medical therapies.

Inclusive Academic Environments

We are committed to developing equitable and inclusive programs for students, including for on campus research programs and online education. Professor Kusumi is working to advance a more inclusive academic environment, including serving as mentor and faculty advisor in university and national LGBTQ organizations.

Lab Art-Science Collaborations

Graduate student Raúl Araya Donoso's 2023 entry to the @ScienceMagazine #DanceYourPhD contest