Dynamics and evolution in complex communities

Population dynamics in microbial communities emerge from an array of biological processes including evolution, phenotypic variation, and demographic fluctuations.  Understanding, and quantifying, how each of these processes individually contributes to abundance dynamics in communities is a challenging task.  Instead, we use model  microbial communities to search for emergent statistical structure governing the dynamics of these communities.   We previously showed that complex communities exhibit strongly deterministic dynamics on long timescales (PRX, 2015).  Our study also showed that ensembles of communities reveal that simple statistical structures can characterize their dynamics.


We are currently working on two questions: 

(1)  How do ecological processes drive community dynamics and result in the statistical structures we observed previously?

(2)  How ecological processes relate to community function?

(3)  How does evolution shape community structure and function?


We previously worked with model ecosystem of three microbial species - the alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (A), the bacterium Escherichia coli (B) and the ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila (C).  Current and future work will focus on this system and more complex communities currently being constructed.