Dr. Ying Zhang’s laboratory of Computational Molecular Ecology

Microbes are among the most abundant organisms on Earth. In the ocean, microbes play important roles in primary production, respiration, as well as the cycling of various phosphorus, nitrogen, and sulfur-containing nutrients. Besides their contributions to global nutrient cycles, microbes respond very quickly to environmental changes. Therefore our understanding of the function and adaptation of marine microbes can provide significant insights into how the marine environment is changing and how these changes will affect nutrient distribution and hence stability and survival of marine lives.

Our laboratory aims to construct computational models to understand the formation, settlement, and evolution of microbial communities in various marine environments and to predict their responses to environmental stresses. We have three main objectives: (1) Genomic comparison of marine microbes to search for environmental-specific adaptations; (2) Metabolic network modeling that permits the simulation of biomass production and nutrient turnover at various environmental conditions; and (3) Development of computational tools that can be widely used for the processing of “omics” data and the simulation of biological networks.