Effects of Climate Change on Microbial Food Webs (2022-2023)

Microbial communities (collections of microbes and their interactions) play a crucial role in the global carbon cycle that sets the pace of global climate change. These communities can evolve rapidly in response to a changing environment, but we don’t currently understand how that rapid evolution may influence their response to global warming. Because of their very short generation times, the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii provide a unique window into how rapid evolution may influence the global carbon cycle under global warming.

This project team combined the fields of biology, evolutionary biology, ecology, microbiology and math to address the role of microbial communities in the global carbon cycle. Team members divided into three subteams that carried out paired mathematical modeling and experimental designs to address the following questions:

  • How does microbial food web structure affect rapid evolution in the algae C. reinhardtii
  • What are the effects of rapid evolution of C. reinhardtii on microbial food webs and what are the traits involved?
  • How does temperature influence these processes?

The math subteam analyzed differential equation models that track population growth and account for rapid evolution of traits that mediate interactions between C. reinhardtii and its predators across temperatures. The ecology subteam designed experiments to understand the roles of temperature, food web structure and genetic variability in rapid evolution. Finally, the cell biology subteam worked with the ecology subteam to extract DNA from experimental samples and prepare it for next-generation sequencing. 


Fall 2022 – Spring 2023

Team Outputs

What a Warming World Means for Microbes (2023 Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Virtual Showcase)

Warming Effects on Microbial Food Webs — From Genes to Ecosystems (poster by Ze-Yi Han, Daniel J. Wieczynski, Yaning Yuan, Enzo Bruscato, Matilde M. Giglietti, Anushka Goel, Nick Sortisio, Luca Tjossem, Haipei Yao, Andrea Yammine, Veronica Ciocanel, Masayuki Onishi and Jean Philippe Gibert, presented at Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Showcase, Duke University, April 19, 2023)

This Team in the News

Two Ph.D. Students and Postdoc Recognized for Phenomenal Team Mentorship

Bass Connections Teams Share Research Highlights at 2023 Showcase

Image: Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, by Wolf G., licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

Team Leaders

  • Maria Veronica Ciocanel, Arts & Sciences-Mathematics
  • Jean Philippe Gibert, Arts & Sciences-Biology
  • Ze-Yi Han, Arts and Sciences–Biology–Ph.D. Student
  • Masayuki Onishi, Arts & Sciences-Biology
  • Daniel Wieczynski, Arts & Sciences-Biology
  • Yaning Yuan, Arts and Sciences–Biology–Ph.D. Student

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Enzo Bruscato, Biology (BS)
  • Anushka Goel, Biology (BS)
  • Matilde Molinari Giglietti, DKU Interdisciplinary Studies (BS)
  • Nicholas Sortisio, Mathematics (BS)
  • Kurt Tjossem, Biology (BS)
  • Happy Yao, Biology (BS)