Statistical Modeling of Microbial Communities: Niches, Traits, and Interactions

Andrew Irwin
Dalhousie University

Marine microbial communities form the base of the marine food web and perform about half of the photosynthesis on Earth. They are key components of the global carbon cycle and help to sequester carbon in the deep ocean, removing it from the atmosphere, through the burial of organic matter on the seafloor. The productivity and function of marine microbial communities are determined in part by the biogeography — which species live where.

We will assemble and analyze observations of microbial communities to develop predictive statistical models that describe community composition. Additional statistical models will be developed to determine the physiological and ecological traits of species and groups of species that determine the growth rates of marine microbes.

Finally, we will analyze community composition data to determine sub-communities of species that tend to co-occur or tend to not be found together to better understand the complex interactions among species and the suites of traits of species that form stable communities.

CBIOMES Collaborators in the Irwin Group

News from the Irwin Group

September 2020 CBIOMES e-meeting – Olga Carnicer (Dal)

“Traits influence dinoflagellate C:N:P” Please note access to this page is restricted to CBIOMES associates. (more…)


Mutshinda. C.M., Finkel, Z.V., Widdicombe, C.E. & Irwin, A.J. (2020), A trait-based taxonomy for phytoplankton biomass modeling and prediction, Diversity, doi: 10.3390/d12080295 Get the PDF [Requires login]


A.W. Omta, D. Talmy, K. Inomura, A.J. Irwin, Z.V. Finkel, D. Sher, and M.J. Follows (2020), Quantifying nutrient throughput and DOM production by algae in continuous culture, Journal of Theoretical Biology, doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2020.110214 Get the PDF [Requires...

The Irwin Group goes to Annual Meeting

Andrew Irwin's Dalhousie-CBIOMES group leads the Statistical Modeling of Microbial Communities: Niches, Traits, and Interactions project which seeks to develop a new trait-based understanding of microbial communities structure. In his...

The Finkel Group Goes to Annual Meeting

Zoe Finkel leads the Developing a New Trait-based Understanding of Microbial Communities Based on Metabolic and Elemental and Macromolecular Constraints project. In this video, Zoe presents an overview of her team's...

May 2020 CBIOMES e-meeting – Crispin Mutshinda (Dal)

"Bayesian inference to partition determinants of community dynamics from observational time series" Please note access to this page is restricted to CBIOMES associates. (more…)


Crispin M. Mutshinda, Andrew J. Irwin, Mikko J. Sillanpää (2020), A Bayesian Framework for Robust Quantitative Trait Locus Mapping and Outlier Detection, The International Journal of Biostatistics, doi: 10.1515/ijb-2019-0038 Get the PDF...

Seen at Ocean Sciences: CBIOMES Posters

Several CBIOMES members shared posters at this year’s Ocean Sciences conference which took place in San Diego in February. Please note access to this page is restricted to CBIOMES associates....


C. Mutshinda, C. Widdicombe, Z.V. Finkel, A.J. Irwin (2019), Bayesian inference to partition determinants of community dynamics from observational time series, Community Ecology, doi: 10.1556/168.2019.20.3.4 Get the PDF [Requires login]

CBIOMES Welcomes Mohammad Amirian Matlob

by Helen Hill for CBIOMES A warm welcome to graduate student Mohammad Amirian Matlob who joins Andrew Irwin's Dalhousie CBIOMES Group this month. (more…)

CBIOMES at CMStatistics2019

In December, several from CBIOMES traveled to London, England, to present their work at CMStatistics2019, a conference organized by the European Research Consortium for Informatics (ERCIM) Working Group on Computational...

CBIOMES Goes to Ocean Sciences 2020

Look out for members of the CBIOMES team, sharing their work at this year’s Ocean Sciences conference taking place February 16-21 in San Diego, California. (more…)

Fall 2019 SCOPE Gradients Workshop

Twelve from CBIOMES attended the 2019 Gradients Workshop held at the Alexis Hotel in Seattle WA October 15 through 17. Please note access to this page is restricted to CBIOMES...


Catherine Fiset, Andrew J. Irwin, Zoe V. Finkel (2019), The macromolecular composition of non‐calcified marine macroalgae, Journal of Phycology, doi: 10.1111/jpy.12913 Get the PDF [Requires login]

When Phytoplankton Go Hungry

Story by Helen Hill | CBIOMES News The Redfield ratio, the atomic ratio of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus (C:N:P) in phytoplankton and deep ocean waters, has often been treated as a...

CBIOMES Welcomes Olga Carnicer

A warm welcome to postdoc Olga Carnicer as she joins Zoe Finkel’s Dalhousie CBIOMES Group. (more…)

Lab Notes: Britten visits Dalhousie

Greg Britten from the MIT CBIOMES Group travels to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada (more…)

Phytoplankton Realized Niches Track Changing Oceanic Conditions at a Long-Term Coastal Station off Sydney Australia

by Helen Hill for CBIOMES CBIOMES researchers in the Dalhousie Group looking at changes in phytoplankton biogeography in response to changing climate find mean phytoplankton niches closely tracked changes in mean...

Past Annual Reporting

2019 | 2018 [login required]