Where are you from, and what is your role in Extreme 2004?
I am a postdoc working with Dr. K. Eric Wommack at the University of Delaware. This will be my second opportunity participating in an Extreme hydrothermal vent cruise, and I will be primarily investigating the viral communities that inhabit diffuse-flow hydrothermal vent fluid and the interactions that exist between viruses and host cells in hydrothermal environments.
What questions are you trying to answer and why?
There are several questions that I plan to address regarding hydrothermal vent viral communities including (1) Do vent viral communities differ from viral communities indigenous to other (less extreme) marine environments; morphologically, genetically, or both? (2) Is viral infection an important mechanism of bacterial mortality in hydrothermal vent environments, and (3) Is lysogeny (a type of virus-host interaction whereby a stable coexistence is established between the virus and host cell upon integration of the viral genome into the genetic material of the host) an important alternative to lytic infection in vent environments?
Why is this research important? What are the benefits?
It is now known that viruses are the most abundant organisms in the marine environment as a whole, outnumbering all other forms of life by at least an order of magnitude. Viruses are believed to play a critical role in shaping marine microbial ecosystems by influencing bacterial production and diversity, ultimately impacting the flow of carbon and other nutrients in the marine environment. Viruses that enter into lytic and lysogenic interactions with host cells have the potential to influence microbial communities by mediating the transfer of genes from one host cell to another by a mechanism called transduction. Additionally, the establishment of a lysogenic interaction between a virus and host cell is known to impart many benefits to the host through the expression of virus-encoded genes (conversion) such as increased cellular fitness, homoimmunity (the resistance to infection by similar strains of viruses), antibiotic resistance, and toxin production. Therefore, it's also possible that viruses may enhance the survival of their hosts in hostile, extreme environments either through gene transfer or conversion.
is your background, and what lured you into marine science/education?
knew from a fairly young age that I would pursue a career in
marine science. I have been going to sea since the age of two,
spending a good amount of my summers as a kid deep-sea fishing
with my family on my grandfather's boat. I grew up in Pennsylvania
where I attended West Chester East High School. I received
my B.S. in marine
biology from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington,
where I first became interested in marine microbiology. I completed
my doctoral work at the University of South Florida, focusing
on the study of virus-host interactions in estuarine and marine
environments. I feel really fortunate to have a career that
allows me to work in an environment that I both love and respect.
I really enjoy working with everything that lives in the sea,
from the tiniest of viruses to the largest mammals, and I have
spent many years as an active volunteer for marine mammal stranding