Microbial interactions are often predicated on metabolism. Auxotrophs are organisms that depend on others for the manufacture of key metabolites. Algae can be vitamin B auxotrophs, with several known species requiring exogenous vitamin B12, as discovered by the group of our close collaborator Professor Alison Smith. Pioneering work in the Smith group has demonstrated that mutualistic bacteria are able to supplement algae with the B12 vitamins they require. We are interested in the biophysical aspects of algal-bacterial mutualistic interactions, such as diffusive transport, swimming and chemotaxis. Our approaches combine mathematical modelling and lab based experiments on model mutualistic partners (the synthetic ecology approach). We work closely with the groups of Professor Smith and Professor Goldstein (DAMTP) to help address fundamental questions in the biochemistry, ecology and evolutionary biology of symbiosis.
S. Widder et al., Challenges in microbial ecology: building predictive understanding of community function and dynamics. ISME J. 1–12 (2016) DOI:10.1038/ismej.2016.45