The Rio laboratory focuses on mechanisms and processes pertinent to the evolution of symbiosis. By merging theoretical predictions with empirical studies and using the naturally simple microbial communities of the medicinal leech and tsetse fly as models, species interactions are examined at various levels of biological organization (i.e. spanning from obligate mutualism to parasitism). We aim to characterize the molecular and ecological cues that interface to drive the specificity, acquisition, progression and persistence of symbiotic systems. This knowledge can be exploited for the advancement of beneficial relations through biotechnological and health practices. In terms of applied biology, the digestive tract symbionts are crucial components of tsetse fly biology and manipulation of these relations also offers a potential avenue for insect vector control, and correspondingly a decrease in African trypanosomiasis prevalence.