Theme 1: Symbiosis dynamics and discovery
We characterize diversity of phenotypes and genotypes in symbioses — including nested genetic elements, microbes, plants, and animals — as well as additional interacting genomes that have not yet been recognized. This theme will provide the foundational data on natural levels of variation that form the basis for understanding how symbioses contribute to eco- evolutionary dynamics in nature.
Theme 2: Rules of engagement
We add the determinants of host–symbiont specificity and define the molecular basis of extended phenotypes to create a multilevel feedback model to explain the structure of natural variation observed in Theme 1. We establish predictive ecological and evolutionary models based on molecular characterization of the establishment of and ongoing intracellular interactions during symbiosis. This theme targets foundational building blocks toward our long-term goal to predict, from relatively easily obtainable genomic data, the responses of natural populations to disturbance and environmental change.
Theme 3: Symbioses as engines of rapid adaptation – eco-evolutionary feedbacks
We identify the feedback responses within symbioses to changes in the community. We develop multiscale models to describe the impacts of nested symbiosis on community dynamics and ecosystem responses to environmental change. This theme will integrate from molecular mechanisms to community dynamics to make evidence-based predictions about the ways that communities respond to environmental change.