The multipotent neural crest (NC) contributes a plethora of derivatives in the developing vertebrate embryo, including sensory, autonomic and enteric neurons and glia as well as the majority of the craniofacial skeleton. Evolution of these cells within the vertebrate ancestor represents a major transition in the tree of life, endowing vertebrates with their highly cephalized body plan. Furthermore, these cells are an experimental tractable and easily accessible system which can be used to model cell fate decisions in the context of neurodevelopment. The overarching aim of my research is to dissect the precise molecular mechanisms that control the ontogeny of NC during early embryogenesis in the little skate, Leucoraja erinacea. The little skate belongs to an unique and ancient group of vertebrates phylogenetically located at the transition from jawless to jawed vertebrates known as cartilaginous fish, which includes sharks, rays, sawfish and chimaeras. Thus, leveraging little skate embryos for neurobiological studies can advance our understanding of how NC cells contributed to the development and evolution of the peripheral and enteric nervous systems in the stem vertebrate ancestor. To this end, I propose to develop next-generation multi-omics approaches coupled with genome editing and further spatial resolution of gene expression to characterize the early development of the little skate NC. This project is thus poised to provide genomic insights into little skate neurodevelopment.