Portrait of Billie Swalla

Billie Swalla

Director, Friday Harbor Laboratories and Professor of Biology

Friday Harbor Laboratories

As a graduate student, Billie Swalla spent a summer taking an embryology course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, an experience that changed her life and set the course for her career—and she has worked on marine invertebrate embryos since then. She is currently the Director at Friday Harbor Laboratories in the College of the Environment, and Professor of Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences. An expert in the evolution and development of invertebrates and the genomics of marine organisms, Swalla has spent nearly two decades at the University of Washington focused on studying the diversity of invertebrates that inhabit Puget Sound and the Salish Sea. Her lab uses transcriptomics and genomics to investigate the evolution of animal body plans by comparing gene expression between different animal embryos. Specific research interests include the evolution and development of ctenophores, tunicates and hemichordates, some of which are the closest invertebrate ancestors to human beings.