Developing a Systems Level Understanding of how
Microbial Communities Assemble, Function and Evolve.


What we do – One of the major challenges in biology is to understand how collectives –formed by the aggregation of individuals and species– function and evolve. We address this challenge in the context of microbial communities, which play a central role in the environment, industry and human health. Our challenge starts with the development of a systems-level understanding of what communities are: how to describe them in functional and quantitative terms, and how to predict their behavior. We focus on systems with a strong spatial structure, and in particular on those communities that assemble to decompose complex organic materials in the ocean. This class of systems allows us to study ecology at the micro-scale, establishing the connections between genetics, physiology and multi-cellular phenomena.

Key publications

Trophic Interactions and the Drivers of Microbial Community Assembly. M Gralka, R Szabo, R Stocker, OX Cordero (2020). Current Biology 30 (19), R1176-R1188

Cooperation and spatial self-organization determine rate and efficiency of particulate organic matter degradation in marine bacteria. A Ebrahimi, J Schwartzman, OX Cordero (2019). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116 (46), 23309-23316

Modular assembly of polysaccharide-degrading marine microbial communities. TN Enke, MS Datta, J Schwartzman, N Cermak, D Schmitz, J Barrere, A Pascual-Garcia, OX Cordero (2019). Current Biology 29 (9), 1528-1535. e6

Microbial interactions lead to rapid micro-scale successions on model marine particles. MS Datta, E Sliwerska, J Gore, MF Polz, OX Cordero (2016). Nature communications 7 (1), 1-7


2/2021 New preprint on strain dynamics and community evolution
1/2021 New preprint on reverse ecology of natural public good exploiters in the ocean.
10/2020 – A perspective on community assembly, published in Current Biology.
3/2020 – Leo’s paper appears in Nature Communications
11/2019- Ali and Julia’s PNAS paper highlighted by MIT News