MBL Senior Scientist Joseph Vallino has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate the structure of microbial food webs. The grant is a collaboration with Julie Huber, associate scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Theoretical studies indicate that microbial food webs may not be highly interconnected, but rather be composed of weakly connected subnetworks. Preliminary model studies indicate that such a network configuration should give rise to unstable communities that are nevertheless very effective at dissipating available energy.
Using a combination of stable isotope probing, genetic sequencing, and thermodynamic modeling, Vallino and Huber aim to test the food web connectivity hypothesis, as well as improve modeling of microbial communities that support all life on Earth.
Photo: Microbial communities in a Winogradsky column. Credit: Joe Vallino