The connected effects of diversity and evolution on microbial community function in Mabisi

Project: PhD

Project Details


The interconnection of species and genetic diversity with ecosystem function has long been a central topic in ecology, yet it is still unclear how this relationship evolves over time. Understanding how changes across hierarchical levels - from genes, to communities, to ecosystems - influence one another is undoubtedly complicated. An ideal experimental study system combines the complexity of natural communities and environments with the control and quick generation times of laboratory evolution experiments. This PhD presents natural microbial communities of Mabisi – a traditionally fermented milk beverage from Zambia – as a model system to investigate the interacting roles of evolution and diversity on community function. By examining Mabisi fermentation using microbial communities of varied starting diversity, a core selection experiment will investigate four related objectives, namely the effect of 1. diversity on functional properties, 2. diversity on functional stability, 3. evolution on ecosystem stability, and 4. diversity on the repeatability of selection trajectories. Metabolic profiles, species composition, gene expression, and response to a novel species introduction will be evaluated throughout the evolution experiment’s timeline. Perturbation via a novel species aims to better understand whether stability at the ecosystem level is influenced by changes in genetic and species composition. Additionally, a final field study in Zambia will use traditional Mabisi production techniques to validate laboratory conclusions. Exploring Mabisi microbial dynamics advances knowledge beyond evolutionary ecology by providing valuable insight for improving product safety and nutrition, thereby contributing to multidisciplinary upscaling, entrepreneurship, and health objectives.
Effective start/end date1/08/20 → …


  • Zambia


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