Advancing microbial sciences by individual-based modelling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Northeastern University
  • Plymouth Marine Laboratory
  • Wageningen University and Research Centre


Remarkable technological advances have revealed ever more properties and behaviours of individual microorganisms, but the novel data generated by these techniques have not yet been fully exploited. In this Opinion article, we explain how individual-based models (IBMs) can be constructed based on the findings of such techniques and how they help to explore competitive and cooperative microbial interactions. Furthermore, we describe how IBMs have provided insights into self-organized spatial patterns from biofilms to the oceans of the world, phage–CRISPR dynamics and other emergent phenomena. Finally, we discuss how combining individual-based observations with IBMs can advance our understanding at both the individual and population levels, leading to the new approach of microbial individual-based ecology (μIBE).


Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Reviews Microbiology
Early online date6 Jun 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jun 2016


  • Biofilms, phage biology, computational models, microbial communities