J. Timothy Wootton

Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolution
The University of Chicago

I am an experimental ecologist who focuses on the mechanisms and consequences of species interactions in nature.  Ecologists have grappled with species interactions among macro-organisms for more than a century, but have largely ignored the diverse community of microorganisms, because their study was only tractable under highly artificial lab conditions. The advent of large-scale DNA technology has opened an exciting new window to studying the role of microbial communities in nature. To date these studies have been very descriptive.  My lab is interested in integrating this information into our experimental studies and mathematical modeling of classical macro-organism ecology.  Merging these methods with ecological field experiments will be a powerful way to understand the functional roles of microbes in ecosystems and their role in shaping ecosystem response and resilience to ecological impacts such as climate change.  Furthermore, a detailed understanding of microbial communities and their relationships to macro-organisms may radically alter our perceptions of the mechanisms by which macro-organisms interact and affect each other, by revealing previously unknown indirect causal pathways mediated by microbes.

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