Manoshi Datta, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher, UC Berkeley
Title: Toward Microbial Ecosystem Engineering: Lessons from the Ocean, Soil, and Human Skin Microbiomes
Abstract: Microbial community biotechnologies - designed to harness synthetic consortia or manipulate wild natural ones - hold tremendous promise for climate change mitigation and the broader bioeconomy. However, while experimental tools are advancing at a tremendous clip, our ability to harness these tools to engineer ecosystem-level outcomes are hampered by the lack of computational frameworks to predict the effect of even the most targeted perturbation - say, a single genetic edit - on a complex network of interacting microbial populations. In this talk, I will argue that high-replication, high-resolution statistical approaches offer a powerful path towards computational microbial community design, drawing from my research leveraging such approaches for communities from the ocean, agricultural soils, and human skin. Focusing on the skin microbiome, I will share how we used high-resolution sampling of wild populations, combined with novel computational genomics approaches, to reveal the pace and character of adaptive evolution in nature, a key step towards building predictive models linking genomic diversity to community function. I will also discuss how we developed controlled, semi-synthetic model systems, which revealed simple rules of community assembly in marine systems and we harnessed to identify agricultural probiotics. Overall, this work will enable computationally guided microbial community engineering and design for sustainability.