Thursday, 17 January 2019 at 3:15 pm
McCullough, First Floor Auditorium, Room #115
Host: Daniel Fisher
The statistical physics of evolving microbial ecosystems
Underneath the fascinating biology, evolution is controlled by a stochastic dynamical process, which describes how mutations arise and spread through a population. Though the rules of this process are simple, it can be surprisingly difficult to predict how they combine to determine the genetic structure of a population. In this talk, I will show how theoretical approaches from statistical physics, along with experimental data from rapidly evolving microorganisms, can enhance our quantitative understanding of this process. Specific attention will be devoted to microbial communities, where the interactions between ecology and evolution raise a unique set of challenges. I will describe our recent progress in understanding the coupled ecological and evolutionary dynamics that emerge in simple resource competition models, and their potential connections to data from laboratory evolution experiments. I will also discuss our recent efforts to measure short-term evolutionary dynamics in the complex communities of bacteria that inhabit the human gut. I will end by discussing the challenges and opportunities that remain for future work.