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

Bacterial growth in multicellular aggregates leads to the emergence of complex life cycles. JA Schwartzman, A Ebrahimi, G Chadwick,  BRK Roller, VJ Orphan, OX Cordero (2022). Current Biology. Vol 32:14, P3059-3069.E7

Historical contingencies and phage induction diversify bacterioplankton communities at the microscale. RE Szabo, S Pontrelli, J Grilli, JA Schwartzman, S Pollak, U Sauer and OX Cordero. (2022). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 119 (30), e2117748119

Public good exploitation in natural bacterioplankton communities. S Pollak, M Gralka, Y Sato, J Schwartzman, L Lu, OX Cordero. (2021). Science Advances. Vol 7Issue 31

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


07/01/2022 New preprint! Annotation-free discovery of functional groups in microbial communities, by X Shan, A Goyal, R Gregor and OX Cordero.
08/01/2022 New preprint! Fundamental metabolic strategies of heterotrophic bacteria, by M Gralka, S Pollak and OX Cordero.
07/25/2022 Julia Schwartzman amazing work on multicellular life-cycles is here.
07/21/2022 Rachel Szabo’s work on microscale community assembly