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 7, Issue 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


New preprint on vitamin auxotrophies by Rachel Gregor
Rachel Szabo joins the Ackermann lab at ETH
and Xiaoyu Shan joins the Dianne Newman’s lab at Caltech.
We miss you guys!
Full list of latest papers here

Meet Our Lab!