Matthew B. Sullivan
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department
University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
As the world faces global change and resource limitation, understanding the planet’s microbes becomes necessity. Microbes drive the biogeochemistry that runs the planet, and are central to human endeavors, from food to health to industry. Viruses that infect microbes (phages) profoundly shape microbial populations and processes by acting as both major predators and sources of new genes, including “host” genes viruses steal that are central to photosynthesis and metabolism that likely drive viral niche-differentiation [refs. 7, 8]. I work to understand viral impacts on globally important microbial processes.
As an empiricist, I test hypotheses through direct systems-level studies of natural populations, complemented by developing and studying model phage-host systems in the lab to generate the data required for predictive ecosystem modeling [reviewed in ref. 2]. The globalscale of the Tara Oceans collected viral archive provides unprecedented windows into viral ecology, having captured nearly all viral particles [ref. 11] with minimally-biased preparations [refs. 5, 6, 12, 13] and remarkable multitrophic (identity and gene expression) ‘Ecosystems Biology’-scale contextualization afforded by the broader Consortium efforts.
Beyond the large-scale community genomic sequencing (104 now sequenced), this work is taking place in the context of extensive innovative and cutting-edge methods developed specifically to elucidate nutrient-virus-host interactions from the single-cell [ref. 1, 2, 3] to population-genomic [refs. 4, 7, 9, 10] scales.