The Moeller Lab studies acquired metabolism. When organisms acquire metabolism (i.e., gain access to metabolic pathways that aren’t hard-wired into their own DNA), they fundamentally change their ability to interact with the living and non-living components of their environment. Examples of acquired metabolism surround us: bacteria gain antibiotic resistance by incorporating DNA from their environment; corals gain the capacity to turn sunlight into energy by incorporating algal endosymbionts. Even we humans, with our vast complement of gut microbiota, benefit by playing temporary host to other metabolisms.
Our lab uses a combination of mathematical models, field observations, and lab experiments to figure out how acquired metabolism changes the dynamics of living communities and understand what ecological pressures lead to the evolution and maintenance of these acquisitions. We work in systems as diverse as tree-fungal symbioses in forests, and chloroplast-stealing ciliates in the coastal ocean!
<<Top Image: Mile Rock Beach, San Francisco, CA, January 2013>>