Associations between phototrophic and heterotrophic microbes play a pivotal role in global nutrient cycles and are pervasive in natural environments from soils to oceans. Phototroph-heterotroph communities are also at the core of carbon cycling in closed ecosystems. We are using the alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as a model phototroph to build a quantitative and predictive understanding of metabolic function and dynamics in phototroph-heterotroph microbial communities. C. reinhardtii is the best characterized phototrophic microbe with a sequenced genome and detailed physiological information available. Remarkably, very little is known about the life of this alga in the wild and we are exploring the associations it forms with heterotrophs through a variety of efforts (including closed ecosystems). Our efforts include:
(1) [Kaumudi Prabhakara] Functional redundancy in C. reinhardtii - heterotroph microbial communities.
(2) [Chandana Gopalakrishnappa] Massively parallel co-culture measurements of the environmental determinants of phototroph-heterotroph interactions using a droplet microfluidic platform in collaboration with the Blainey Lab at MIT.
(3) [Harry Mickalide] The role of phototrophs in regulating bacterial-predator interactions.