Ecological Systems

This strategic thrust is aimed at understanding the relationship between living organisms and their environment, but we take it further. While ecology is a biological science, it is also a human science. We specialize in human ecology research. How can humans better acquaint to their environment, and how can we make a difference?

Key areas include:

  • Life processes, interactions and adaptations, e.g.: Monitoring ecosystems through species interaction changes
  • The movement of materials and energy through living communities, e.g.: Physiology and evolution of nitrate acquisition in Prochlorococcus
  • The successional development of ecosystems, e.g. Using community ecology to engineer better microbiomes
  • The abundance and distribution of organisms and biodiversity in the context of the environment


Penny Chisholm:
The global genetic repertoire of Prochlorococcus

Prochlorococcus is the smallest and most abundant photosynthetic cell on Earth. This tiny cyanobacterium dominates open ocean ecosystems, largely through the extraordinary cell-to-cell diversity found within the population. The goal of this project in Professor Chisholm’s laboratory is to describe the complete genetic inventory of the Prochlorococcus ‘collective’ in the global oceans and understand the ecological and evolutionary drivers that shape it.