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Ecology of microbes focus of workshop

Microbe populations have traditionally been thought of as homogeneous collections of identical individuals. Yet, advances in single-cell observational techniques, like flow cytometry, microfluidics, fluorescence microprobes, and single-cell genomics, allow for the observation of individual microbes within populations.

The National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) is now accepting applications for its Investigative Workshop: Individual-based Ecology of Microbes: Observations and Modeling to be held June 8-10, 2011, at NIMBioS on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, campus. The goal of the workshop is to bring together researchers interested in applying individual observational and/or modeling techniques to study individual-based microbial ecology to accelerate the development of this new field.

The workshop reflects the recent trend to move from population-level to individual-based approaches in ecology. Early ecological models of organisms at higher trophic levels, such as populations of wolves or fish, for example, were based on populations. However, with advances in computing and observing technology, the individual-based approach is now becoming feasible for microbes as well and will likely become standard practice for microbes in the future.

Some topics to be explored during the workshop include fundamental differences in the results using the individual-based approach, appropriate levels of aggregation, the development of a generally-applicable method, specific mathematical or computational hurdles, and an exploration of biological questions that can be investigated more effectively using the individual-based approach.

The workshop is organized Ferdi L. Hellweger (Civil & Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University); Jan-Ulrich Kreft (Centre for Systems Biology, University of Birmingham); Caroline Plugge (Microbial Physiology, Wageningen University); and Andre Levchenko (Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins).


Contact: Catherine Crawley
National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS)

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