Tag Archives: experimental evolution

Grad Student: Synthetic Ecology and the Evolution of Symbiosis

Graduate Assistantships in Synthetic Ecology and the Evolution of Symbiosis

Graduate assistantships are available to support Masters or PhD students in Erik Hom’s laboratory at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss).  The Hom lab is generally interested in understanding how biotic and abiotic factors facilitate the formation, persistence, and evolution of species interactions, notably those that are symbiotic.  We are particularly fond of studying the interactions between fungi and algae and use a predominantly synthetic approach to address our questions (see Science 345:94-98).  Our lab is seeking bright, highly motivated students with an appetite for learning to join us in pursuing research projects of mutual interest in areas that include (but are not limited to): experimental evolution, synthetic ecology, EcoEvoDevo, eukaryotic metagenomics, bioinformatics, and the ecology of microbial consortia.  Stipend support will be a combination of research and teaching assistantships, and includes tuition waivers and health benefits.

The University of Mississippi is in an exciting phase of institutional growth and is located in Oxford, a vibrant and idyllic college town in northern Mississippi, about 75 mi south of Memphis, TN.  If you are into football, William Faulkner, local music, and/or fine food, Oxford is a fun town!  Requirements for graduate admissions can be found here: http://goo.gl/t1CfcR.  The desired start date for these positions is August 2015 (although January 2015 may be possible).  Women and underrepresented minorities are strongly encouraged to apply.  Those with a strong interest in STEM education and outreach within an underserved region are also encouraged to apply.

For consideration and/or more information, please contact Dr. Hom (erik@olemiss.edu, +1-662-915-1731, http://darwinsdaemon.com).  To apply, please send a single PDF file that includes:

1) a cover letter explaining your specific research interest(s) and qualifications/research experience,
2) your curriculum vitae,
3) a scientific writing sample,
4) school transcript(s),
5) GRE scores (note: quantitative and verbal scores should each be >150), and
6) contact information for at least 3 references.

Experimental cooperative evolution

Blogging about Peer-Reviewed ResearchA paper in Nature this week describes how a few mutations can alter the interactions between species in a biofilm from competitive to cooperative system. This is a great study that goes from start to finish on studying community interactions, looking at an evolved phenotype, and understanding the genetic and physiological basis for the adaptation.

Acinetobacter sp. and Pseudomonas putida were raised in a carbon-limited environment with only benzyl alcohol as the carbon source. Acinetobacter can processes the benzyl alcohol, while P. putida is unable to. Acinetobacter takes up the bezyl alcohol and secretes benzoate that P. putida can then use as a carbon source. The research group propagated these in chemostats and looked at different starting concentrations of the organisms. They found that evolved P. putida had a different morphology and did several experiments to determine the relative fitness of the derived and ancestral genotype.

They went on to also map the mutations in P. putida and found two independent mutations in wapH (I think this is the right gene)—a gene involved in lipopolysaccharide (LPS) biosynthesis. They then engineered the ancestral strain to have a mutation in P. putida and found the rough colony phenotype morphology indistinguishable from the strain derived from experimental evolution.

There are various evolutionary and niche adaptation implications arising from this study. One application to mycology is to how lichens evolved in that an algael cell and a fungal cell must communicate and cooperate.