Our work is centred around microbial populations. We use them as experimental tools to tackle questions concerning the mechanistic basis of ecological and evolutionary process. We are also interested in the function and ecological significance of the phenotypes / behaviours that bacteria manifest.
Research themes include the emergence of individuality during major evolutionary transitions, the evolutionary organisation of cells, the production, regulation and ecological significance of extracellular products, the biophysics of mat-formation, selfish genetic elements and their evolutionary impacts on genomes, populations, communities, and even metaorganisms, the emergence and maintenance of diversity, the evolution of contingency and elucidation of rules underpinning adaptive evolution. We also embrace research on the interaction between plants and microbes with particular interest in the origins of crop diseases and the population ecology of commensals. Further information on research themes and projects is available via the links below.
As to tools and approaches, we bring on board technologies and strategies as required, but much of our work uses experimental evolution and the tool-box of analytical genetics, complemented by genome sequencing (and re-sequencing), metagenomics, RNA-Seq, Tn-Seq and similar. Biophysical approaches are increasingly important. The department houses a state-of-the-art microscopy unit, plant growth chambers, computational facilities and via our lab at ESPCI in Paris access to cutting edge technologies in micro and millifluidics. Theory is also an important part of our programme of work.
Over many years we have made the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 the focus of much activity to the point where it is now an important and useful model in microbiology, genetics and experimental evolution