University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series > Predictability and unpredictability in the dynamics of nutrient-cycling microbial ecosystems

Predictability and unpredictability in the dynamics of nutrient-cycling microbial ecosystems

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Mustapha Amrani.

Mathematical, Statistical and Computational Aspects of the New Science of Metagenomics

Co-authors: Timothy Bush (School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Edinburgh), Eulyn Pagaling (School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Edinburgh), Fiona Strathdee (School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh), Andrew Free (School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh)

Microbial communities mediate crucial biogeochemical, biomedical and biotechnological processes, yet our understanding of their assembly, and our ability to control its outcome, remain poor. We investigate experimentally whether microbial ecosystem assembly is predictable, or inherently unpredictable. In our experiments, source microbial communities colonize a pristine microcosm environment to form complex, nutrient-cycling ecosystems. We find that when the source communities colonize a novel environment, final community composition and function are unpredictable, but when the source communities are pre-conditioned to their new habitat, community development is more reproducible. Our results suggest strategies for improving the design of complex microbial communities for biotechnological applications. I will also discuss recent attempts to construct mathematical models for the dynamics of our microcosm communities, and to use them to predict the sensitivity of microbial ecosystems to environmental change.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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