Microbial populations display an enormous range of variation in gene content, genome structure, and sequence, but our understanding of its significance is limited. What does this variation reveal about the mechanisms governing genome evolution, and to what extent does it contribute to organismal fitness? How do ecological parameters interact with evolutionary forces such as mutation, recombination, migration, and selection in establishing patterns of variation? To what extent are patterns replicated, and which develop stochastically?
Metagenomics, which refers to the study of genomic sequence obtained from a mixed population, is a powerful tool to address these questions. It has provided significant insights into the structure and function of microbes in the environment, but to date, most metagenomic studies of microbial communities have collected snapshots of data at a particular point in space and time. The power of metagenomics as a tool to measure rates and dynamics of fundamental evolutionary processes in natural systems remains largely unexplored.
The Simmons Lab uses a combination of manipulative experiments on microbial communities and high-throughput sequencing to interrogate the evolutionary dynamics and ecological significance of naturally occurring genetic variation.
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News & Events:
Sheri's upcoming lectures:
MBL Microbial Diversity course, June 26 2013
Lecturer, Quantitative Population Genetics at the Institut d'Etudes Scientifiques de Cargese, July 8-20, 2013
Gordon Research Seminar in Population Biology, invited speaker, July 21, 2013
Dr. Paul Turner, Yale University will be in residence in the Simmons lab as a Whitman Investigator at the MBL in August 2013. We will be collaborating on investigations of phage in the phyllosphere.
March 2013: Sheri is awarded a 3 year grant from NSF MCB in collaboration with Dr. Jean Huang at Olin College,
titled: "Collaborative: RUI: Characterization of Marine and Freshwater Photosynthetic Consortia that Accomplish
Cellulose Degradation and Nitrogen Fixation." See more details on the Research page.
Welcome Elena Peredo! Elena joined the lab as a Visiting Scientist in November 2012 following a Fulbright postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of Dr. Donald Les at the University of Connecticut.
Elena is working on applying advanced imaging methods allowing the simultaneous visualization of dozens of microbial taxa (CLASI-FISH)
to leaf surfaces. Her goal is to characterize microscale interactions of diverse taxa on leaf surfaces.