Microbial Diversity and Evolution

The Aylward lab is broadly interested in the ecology and evolution of microbial life. Hallmark discoveries made over the last ~40 years have underscored the importance of microbes to the planet and shown that global biogeochemical cycles are driven by diverse groups of bacteria, archaea, protists, and viruses, most of which lack any cultivated representatives. Novel microbial lineages continue to be discovered using cultivation-independent methods, and currently a major challenge is understanding the ecology and evolution of these groups and their broader impact on the biosphere. The Aylward lab uses computational approaches to investigate the phylogenetic, genomic, and metabolic diversity of microbes and the factors that shape their distributions and genomic repertoires.


Current research in the lab is focused on examining the diversity and genome evolution of multiple microbial groups, particularly in marine environments. These diverse research interests are reflected in some recent papers:

M Moniruzzaman, AR Weinheimer, CA Martinez-Gutierrez, FO Aylward. Widespread endogenization of giant viruses shapes genomes of green algae. Nature, 2020. 

Aylward FO, Santoro AE. Heterotrophic thaumarchaea with small genomes are widespread in the dark ocean. mSystems, 2020, 5:e00415-20.

M Moniruzzaman, CA Martinez-Gutierrez, AR Weinheimer, FO Aylward. Dynamic genome evolution and complex virocell metabolism of globally-distributed giant viruses. Nature Communications, 2020, 11(1): 1-11. 

CA Martinez-Gutierrez & FO Aylward. Strong purifying selection is associated with genome streamlining in epipelagic Marinimicrobia. Genome Biology and Evolution, 2019, 11 (10), 2887-2894.

EW Getz, SS Tithi, L Zhang, FO Aylward. Parallel evolution of genome streamlining and cellular bioenergetics across the marine radiation of a bacterial phylum. mBio, 20189:e01089-18.