The Holobiont Tree of Life
Will identify how holobionts vary in the natural world, focusing on tractable organisms for which copious specimens have already been collected. Holobiont relationships are not fixed: mutually beneficial partnerships can erupt into conflict when new situations emerge due to changes to the external environment (climate change, pollution) or to changes to the internal environment (host diet, physiology).
By characterising how microbiome-multicell relationships vary across the Tree of Life, the Centre will acquire the baseline against which 'unnatural' variation is measured.
We will develop the new field of artificial holobionts through manipulations of hosts and their resident microbes. The Centre will develop new tools for probing and manipulating holobiont partnerships using synthetic biology and other bioengineering approaches.
In so doing, we will engineer artificial life forms comprised of novel holobiont partnerships. We will apply these principles to tackle urgent applied questions in conservation biology, restoration ecology, and agriculture.
Holobionts in Nature
We will identify how global change is altering holobiont relationships so that we can understand and predict the repercussions for the future of life on Earth.
The Centre will focus on insect pollinators and amphibians, which have suffered catastrophic declines due to human modifications of their environments, with global repercussions.
Holobionts and Global Challenges
We will focus on plant-microbe interactions, and how they can be used to create next-generation sustainable agriculture that use crop microbiomes to boost efficiency, reduce harmful side effects of pesticides and other chemicals, cope with global change, and complement conventional techniques.