My long-term interests are in the biology of symbiosis, particularly that between multicellular hosts and microbes. Symbioses are central in the evolution of complexity, have evolved many times and are critical to the lifestyles of many animals and plants and also to whole ecosystems, in which symbiotic organisms are key players. The primary reason that symbiosis research is suddenly active, after decades at the margins of mainstream biology, is that DNA technology and genomics give us enormous new ability to discover symbiont diversity, and more significantly, to reveal how microbial metabolic capabilities contribute to the functioning of hosts and biological communities.
Examples of ongoing projects, mostly collaborations with students and postdoctoral researchers, include:
Phylogenetic, genomic and experimental studies of previously unstudied insect symbioses.
Study of aphid genes underlying carotenoid biosynthesis.
Experiments on the interdependent metabolic functioning of Buchnera and aphids.
Reconstruction of the evolutionary changes in genomes of bacterial symbionts.
Experimental investigations of facultative symbionts of aphids.
Studies of the functions, evolution and ecology of the bacteria living in the guts of honey bees and bumble bees.