Ecosystems fluctuate over time. For example, in a forest trees fall, seeds grow, and sometimes forest fires burn it all down. Microbial ecosystems experience similar fluctuations but on a much faster time scale. Taking advantage of the fast time scale and ease of setting up a controlled experiment, we study complex ecological dynamics that arise from microbial community interactions. Our research group investigates basic ecological principles in the context of gnotobiotic Drosophila melanogaster microbiomes in order to understand the complicated and often complex relationship between microbiome and host.
1. Gut microbial ecology modulates fly health. Using gnotobiotic flies and a battery of physiological and fitness assays, we study the effects of gut microbial community ecology on host cell physiology.
2. Metabolic crossfeeding influences community ecology of the gut microbiota. Using both gnotobiotic flies and high throughput in vitro growth assays, we study the microbial interactions that shape the fly gut microbiota.
3. Stochastic population dynamics in the microbiome influence host physiology. We have developed single fly feeding and monitoring techniques to measure microbial populations in the gut. Using these approaches, we are studying basic principles of colonization and stability in the context of host physiology and disease ecology.