Carey Nadell is a microbial ecologist and evolutionary biologist. His research lab at Dartmouth College uses techniques and concepts from several domains to understand collective microbial behavior. Bacteria often live in groups, called biofilms, where they cooperate and compete with each other using a wide array of interactive behaviors. These interactions are central to how bacteria evolve and how they impact the world around them. Nadell’s group uses tools from ecology, evolution, computational modeling, light microscopy and molecular biology to understand the cell-scale mechanisms and biofilm-scale consequences of bacterial social interaction. The lab specializes in cultivating single- and multi-species biofilms using microfluidic devices designed to mimic natural conditions, especially those of marine snow particles. His team then uses optical sectioning microscopy and detailed image analysis to understand the population dynamics, spatial ecology and emergent architecture of biofilm-dwelling communities at single-cell resolution. Combined with theoretical approaches from ecology and evolution, these experiments contribute to the overall goal of broadening our understanding of the inherently gregarious nature of microbes.
Nadell received a B.A. with first-class honors in biology from the University of Oxford under Spencer Behmer and Tim Guilford before moving on to his Ph.D. training in theoretical ecology and evolution with Simon Levin at Princeton University. He was a postdoctoral scholar for several years with Bonnie Bassler, with whom he began transitioning toward experimental work that merged with his background in social evolution theory. Nadell worked as a senior scientist and Alexander von Humboldt fellow in collaboration with Knut Drescher at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology before starting his independent research group at Dartmouth, where he is now an assistant professor in the department of biological sciences.