Please see my group research web page at www.mca-johnson.com.
I lead the Microbial Community Assembly group at Eawag. We are interested in a universal feature of nearly every high-density surface-attached microbial community; spatial self-organization. Different genotypes are not arranged randomly across space. Instead, they arrange themselves non-randomly and form spatial patterns. We want to understand the causes and consequences of spatial self-organization. We then want to leverage the knowledge gained to rationally manipulate spatial self-organization to achieve biotechnological and public health objectives. Specific interests include the following:
- How does spatial self-organization affect the spread and proliferation of horizontally transferred genes?
- How does spatial self-organization affect the resistance and resilience of ecosystems to invasions?
- How does spatial self-organization affect the release of undesired metabolites, such as the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide?
We address these questions using synthetic ecology. We build communities from the bottom-up, where we can precisely control interactions between different genotypes. We then quantify how community composition and interactions affect spatial self-organization. Finally, we test hypotheses about how spatial self-organization affects the emergent properties of the community, such as horizontal gene transfer and invasion resistance.