The evolutionary ecology of complex microbial communities


This project will aim to develop a model for structure and function of the microbial community in the gut and soil by drawing together recent advances in both fields.


Professor Stephen Simpson, Professor Max Bennett, Professor Ian Caterson, Associate Professor Michael Charleston, Associate Professor Timothy Gill

Research Location

Charles Perkins Centre – the Judith and David Coffey Life Lab

Program Type



Soil and the resident microbial community support all terrestrial life and provide ecosystem services of such value to render them irreplaceable. These services include, climate regulation, flood prevention, the provision of fresh water and perhaps most importantly, agriculture. Similarly, the microbial community in the gut perform a multitude of critical processes that maintain human health, including nutrition, immunology and signaling through the gut-brain axis.These systems share common underlying challenges in their complexity, difficulty of measurement and the lack of useful laboratory models. Nevertheless progress has been made and both areas will benefit from a mutual sharing of technologies, concepts and approaches. This project will aim to draw together the conceptual developments in both gut and soil biology to develop a holistic theory of the link between microbial community structure, nutritional complexity and the function and resilience of the system.

Additional Information

The Life Lab creates a new kind of graduate and postgraduate training environment at the interface between life, social, economic and physical sciences. Its focus is to address the significant challenges we face from an unsustainable food system that degrades the environmental services it depends on, and creates significant societal health problems. A better understanding of the complexity of the environment-food-health nexus is critical. It is fundamental to building a sustainable society, and one that is more robust to future uncertainties. Our unique approach will be a world-first in shifting research on these growing challenges from treating symptoms to prevention.Life Lab will challenge existing paradigms and university models to create a research training environment in which traditional disciplinary boundaries do not apply. Our ambitious vision is to create an ‘innovation hub' where researchers from disciplines spanning physical, life and social and economic sciences will interface with business, government and agency leaders. It will develop integrated approaches to the challenges that threaten societal wellbeing, and train the next generation of experts with the skills required to find solutions.

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Gut health, microbial ecology, soil, nutrition, health, modeling

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1694

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