Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, 330 N. Orchard St., Room 3116
Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution. At the same time, little in evolution makes sense outside the community context. Due to phenotypic interactions and genetic exchange, both selection and mutation pressures on organisms depend on what other organisms are around. To improve our understanding of the collective aspects of evolution, our lab studies the dynamics of microbial interactions in natural and synthetic microbial communities. We are primarily focused on bacteria from the genus Streptomyces because they are prolific producers of secondary metabolites, which mediate interactions, and because the genetic determinants of these interactions are hierarchically modular and subject to horizontal gene transfer. We develop protocols for quantifying the community dynamics at the phenotypic and genetic levels, and seek simplified theoretical models that reproduce aspects of the experimentally measured dynamics.