Dynamics of Complex Living Systems

Microbial systems


For several years, microbes were studied as unicellular, solitary organisms that live independently from each other. However, they very often coordinate their behavior collectively to perform several tasks, such as foraging, dispersal, reproduction, or nutrient acquisition. Several studies have proposed different mechanisms to explain how this level of collective coordination could emerge and is maintained in microbes. Most of these models operate at the evolutionary scale and very often neglect the impact of ecological and environmental variables in driving microbial social behaviors. Our group has worked towards incorporating these feedbacks between environmental, ecological, and evolutionary dynamics in models for microbial population dynamics and social evolution. More specifically, we have focused on understanding how complex environmental contexts such as those defined by fluid flows change the outcome of microbial ecological interactions and the evolution of social and collective behaviors. We have developed this work both using mathematical models based on reaction-diffusion equations and lattice-gas-like cellular automata, and microfluidic experiments with different bacterial strains.

Selected references:

Ser-Giacomi, E., Martinez-Garcia, R., Dutkiewicz, S., & Follows, M. J. (2023). A Lagrangian model for drifting ecosystems reveals heterogeneity-driven enhancement of marine plankton blooms. Nature Communications, 14(1), 6092.
Rossine, F. W., Martinez-Garcia, R., Sgro, A. E., Gregor, T., & Tarnita, C. E. (2020). Eco-evolutionary significance of “loners”. PLoS biology, 18(3), e3000642.
Martínez-García, R., Nadell, C. D., Hartmann, R., Drescher, K., & Bonachela, J. A. (2018). Cell adhesion and fluid flow jointly initiate genotype spatial distribution in biofilms. PLoS Computational Biology, 14(4), e1006094.