Matti Gralka

Postdoc | MIT |


Raised a physicist, I have been turning into an experimental microbial ecologist with a soft spot for theory. I am generally interested in uncovering fundamental principles of microbial community assembly and their response to perturbations by combining modeling with highly controlled experiments, especially the assembly of complex synthetic communities from environmental isolates. Currently, I use this approach to study how microscopic interactions in complex microbial communities mediate the degradation of biopolymers in the ocean.

Selected Publications:
A review on how trophic interactions shape microbial community assembly: Given their ubiquity across environments, both anaerobic and aerobic, trophic interactions impart a common logic that can enable the development of a more quantitative and predictive microbial community ecology.
Public good exploitation has been studied extensively from an evolutionary lens, but little is known about the occurrence and impact of public good exploiters in natural communities. Here, we develop a reverse ecology approach to systematically identify bacteria that can exploit public goods produced during the degradation of polysaccharides. These public good exploiters hinder the growth of degraders and invade marine microbial communities during early stages of colonization. Unlike cheaters in social evolution, exploiters and polysaccharide degraders (cooperators) come together by a process of community assembly, belong to distant lineages and can stably coexist.

Research Interests

Quantitative microbial ecology, complex synthetic communities

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Matti Gralka