Sarah Heath (PhD student)

My PhD examines environmental effects on host-virus interactions in the marine alga Ostreococcus tauri and its virus. Viruses are the most abundant biological entities on the planet and marine viruses play key roles in horizontal gene transfer, cell mortality and release of organic matter. O. tauri is globally distributed in the oceans, however little is know about how virus infection changes across different environments.

I am using susceptible and resistant strains of O. tauri to examine whether their susceptibility to a virus (OtV5) changes under different environmental conditions. I am also interested in whether there is a cost of resistance and if resistant cells cope better or worse under stressful growth conditions. Finally, I want to know whether evolving in the presence of viruses affects the ability of O. tauri to adapt to new environments.

Increased knowledge of algae-virus interactions will allow us to better understand the evolutionary responses of marine microorganisms to future environmental change in the oceans.