Special Seminar: Ocean viruses: model systems and 'big data' to explore global impacts of the biosphere's nanoscale modulators
Nearly one-third of ocean microbes are infected each day by viruses. Research over the last two decades has begun to illuminate the impact of these infections, from modulating global biogeochemical cycles to driving the trajectories of their microbial hosts through mortality, metabolic reprogramming, diversification and improved evolvability. Most of these findings derive from culture-independent methods that have tapped the magnitude of global viral biodiversity and offered insights into its functional implications, thereby revolutionizing our understanding of this microbial world. I will introduce the large-scale patterns and drivers of viral ecology that are beginning to be resolved in the oceans. Additionally, I will present my current and future work developing an environmentally relevant model virus-host system and propose solutions for more effectively mining viral ‘big data’ to answer fundamental ecological and evolutionary questions. Together with advances in virus-host interaction theory and ecosystem models, this 'omics-centric work will develop our understanding of how viruses alter global ecosystem processes to inform the next generation of predictive Earth system models.