Social behaviour, biofilms, and the importance of being spatial
Our research interests revolve around intriguing interactions between microorganisms, or between microbes with their hosts, and focus on when and how spatial structure in the population and environment changes the competitiveness of the different survival strategies.
Questions we like to ask are:
- How can cooperation as restraint from competition or the economical use of resources evolve (tragedy of the commons)?
- Why is metabolic labour divided in nitrification?
- What is the fitness advantage of the division of labour between motile and immotile subpopulations of Pseudomonas aeruginosa?
- Is quorum sensing as measurement of cell density possible under more complex natural conditions, e.g. when cells are clustered?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of broad and narrow host range plasmids (generalists versus specialists)?
- What is the optimal gut layout and gut microbiota community composition for the energy intake of the host?
- How important is spatial heterogeneity of microbes and patchiness of resource distribution for the degradation of pollutants in groundwater ecosystems?
To address these fundamental questions we combine individual-based modelling and other mathematical models with experiments in the laboratory.