Alexander Culley, Département de biochimie, de microbiologie et de bio-informatique
My interest in environmental viral ecology began at the start of my graduate studies with the realization that viruses are the most diverse and abundant biological entities on Earth. Subsequently, my research has centered on the use of molecular techniques to study viruses that infect aquatic microbes and how the interaction of virus and host influence aquatic microbial ecology. My research has varied in scope from the characterization of individual viral isolates in the laboratory, to studying viral ecology in large-scale, interdisciplinary field studies in the Arctic, Antarctic and open ocean.
Microbes play a critical role in the cycling of nutrients and energy, and therefore understanding the dynamics and interactions of this group is vital to understanding the ecology of aquatic ecosystems as a whole. An important, but relatively understudied, component of the microbial community is the viruses. As well as being the most abundant and diverse biological entities on Earth, viruses influence the community structure and evolution of their hosts, and ultimately the productivity of the entire biota. I am building my research program around two major themes, aquatic viral ecology in a changing climate and viral discovery. The Arctic is a model environment to pursue these two themes because the region is experiencing some of the most dramatic changes due to climate change on Earth and it harbors a wide diversity of aquatic habitats whose viral communities are largely uncharacterized. The long-term goal of my research is thus to gain a deeper understanding of the impact, diversity and dynamics of the in situ virus communities in diverse Arctic aquatic habitats, and how viral ecology is affected by the rapid and evolving changes in this ecosystem.