University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

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"Linking genes to ecosystems using 'Systems BioEcology' "


Ferdi Hellweger

Civil & Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University
Friday, April 30, 2010, 2:00 pm, EMS E495A

Environmental engineers are charged with integrating basic scientific knowledge into models of environmental systems so that applied "what if" predictions can be made. The goal of my research program is to make environmental models compatible with current scientific knowledge. The first step is to realize that microbes are not chemical molecules but complex systems with changing internal composition, adaptive behavior and lifecycles. The second step is to realize that ecosystems themselves are not simple engineering reactors but also complex systems with many populations each made up of individuals with different life histories and states, and local interactions. In Systems BioEcology, ecosystem's behavior emerges from the cumulative behavior and interaction of microbes, whose behavior themselves emerges from the cumulative behavior and interaction of genes and proteins. This approach allows us to go from the scale of molecular biology to that of the ecosystem. We can, for example, perform an ecosystem-scale gene knockout experiment in silico to understand how gene X affects the density of population Y and concentration of chemical Z within an ecosystem.

In this seminar I will introduce Systems BioEcology and present three projects. These projects focus on the role of resting stages in the lifecycle of Anabaena, the role of the circadian clock on the fitness of the Synechococcus. and the role of photosynthesis genes in viruses infecting Prochlorococcus.

Refreshments will be provided in EMS E495B at 1:30 pm.

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