Chemical, geological and fossil data suggest that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and that bacterial life was present on earth for at least 3 billion years before any evidence of humans is found. The emergence of complex multicellular organisms such as humans has taken place in intimate association with microbial communities; and the present-day human-microbe association, the "metaorganism", is the product of an expansive and complex coevolutionary process. We have only recently begun to recognize the complexity and importance of the interrelationships that have evolved over millennia between human and animal cells and their associated microbial communities. In this course we will develop a framework to aid our understanding of the species diversity and critical interspecies dependencies (microbe-microbe and microbe-human) that comprise the human microbial mothership. We will explore the tools and technologies used to characterize and analyze complex microbial communities. We will examine how microbial community composition influences such things as autism and diabetes. We will also explore the impact of perturbations to metaorganismal communities on health and well-being, for example the effect of antibiotics and dietary changes. (Offered every other year).
Approaches to Creation and Analysis, The Interdisciplinary Clusters