What questions are you trying to answer and why?
I'm hoping to do basic characterisation of vent viruses including
(1) how abundant are viruses in hydrothermal vent water? (2) What
do these viruses look like and how do they compare morphologically
(look) to viruses from other marine environments? (3) How important
is viral infection as an agent of bacterial cell death (bacterial
mortality) at the vents? (4) How genetically diverse are vent viral
communities and (5) How do vent viral communities compare genetically
to other marine viral communities?
Why is this research important? What are the benefits?
Scientists have learned that viruses are likely an important agent
controlling both the growth and diversity of co-existing bacterial
communities in marine environments. Ultimately, it is the growth
and diversity of bacteria which, in large part, determines the flow
and recycling of nutrients through the environment. Without the
recycling activities of bacteria, higher life plants and
animals would not survive. Investigations of the role of
viruses helps us to better understand the inner workings of bacterial
Whats your educational background and what lured you into
When I was young, I enjoyed watching documentary programs on the
ocean explorations of Jacques Cousteau. I also enjoyed science and
the outdoors. The combination of these three interests led me toward
a research career in marine science. I attended St. Pius High School
and then Emory University, both are in Atlanta, Georgia. After finishing
college, I spent two years at the Univ. of St. Andrews in Scotland,
UK, working on a masters degree at the Gatty Marine Laboratory.
I did my doctoral work at the Center of Marine Biotechnology, University
of Maryland, in Baltimore. An important part of my interest in studying
marine environments came from summer work (1981 88) at the
Florida National High Adventure Sea Base, a national Boy Scout base
located in the Florida keys.