The Cordero Lab uses a combination of experimentation, comparative genomics and mathematical modeling to understand the community ecology and evolution of microbial communities in the environment.

Community ecology of microbes

We know a great deal about microbial genetics and physiology, yet we know almost nothing about their lives in the environment. We need to better understand the community-context of these organisms: whom do they interact with, what is the landscape they occupy and what strategies do they employ to survive in it. Answering these questions is one of the overarching goals of our research.

We focus on polysaccharide-degrading microbes in the ocean, which are highly diverse in their ability to navigate complex nutrient landscapes and interact with other microbial species. By deconstructing complex organic materials, these organisms perform a fundamental role in the planet’s carbon cycle. We domesticate these communities and use them in the lab to study their dynamics and function in a controlled fashion. As part of the Simons Collaboration Principles of Microbial Ecosystems (PriME), we work with colleagues in Europe and the US to develop a systematic understanding of these communities using a combination of genomics, physiology and trait-based modeling.

Evolution in microbial communities

We are interested in understanding how communities impact the selective pressures that drive the evolutionary dynamics of microbial populations. We are approaching this question from two angles:

  1. Using population genomics of natural communities we reconstruct the ecological structure of the system as well as the patterns of genotypic variation within species. We use these data to infer population structure, selection, etc as a function of the role of the species within the community.
  2. We perform experiments that allow us to study the evolutionary stability of domesticated communities in the lab.