Our laboratory investigates specialized survival strategies used by the embryo as it grows within the uterus. Central to the embryo's survival is the formation of an organ derived from the embryo called the placenta. This organ gains access to the maternal blood supply and facilitates the delivery of nutrients to the fetus. We study how early stem cells develop into the placenta. We have learned that the placenta is built in response to cues present in the maternal environment; and diseases of pregnancy, such as preeclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction, result when the embryo is not successful in its adaptations to the maternal environment. Inadequate in utero adaptive responses have potentially long-lasting impacts on adult health and disease. These efforts have led to an interest in the evolution of species-specific reproductive adaptations and the role of endogenous retroviral DNA sequences in regulating reproduction. Our research also includes the establishment and characterization of mutant rat models. Genome editing strategies have been used to generate rats with mutations in key genes regulating estrogen signaling. These animal models represent new tools for biomedical scientists in a range of disciplines, including cancer biology, reproduction, women’s health, environmental health, metabolism, immunology, neurosciences, and cardiovascular biology.