Bacteria are not solitary organisms. In their native habitats, bacteria form large, dense, and often diverse communities in contact with surfaces. Many bacteria use flagella to swim through fluids and to attach to surfaces, which is an important step in establishing communities. However, very little is understood about the role of flagella during the growth and development of communities. Several observations suggest that flagella play an important role in coordinating the movement of cells, which is crucial for the behavior and physiology of multi-cellular structures. This project studies the role of flagella in community development in three model bacteria and will develop a framework for understanding how the coordination of behavior of many individual cells produces multi-cellular behavior.
Broader Impacts This project will have a scientific impact across a range of age groups, including one graduate student and postdoctoral fellow who will have opportunities for: 1) mentoring undergraduate research assistants; 2) working closely with a collaborator in engineering; 3) participating in scientific conferences; 4) collaborating on the design and development of science outreach projects with local K-8 teachers; and 5) participating in science outreach events for K-8 students and their families. This project includes hosting local teachers as summer interns in the lab for the development of age-specific microbe-related activities that will be integrated into classrooms and after-school programs in the Madison Metropolitan School District. These activities will also be used for one-day family events at local libraries and the Childrens' Museum in Madison. This research will thus enrich the science education of postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students, K-8 teachers, and K-8 students and their families.