Skip directly to content

Minimize RSR Award Detail

Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Oregon State University
  • Rebecca L Vega
  • (541) 737-1851
  • Andrew R Thurber
Award Date:08/02/2016
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 746,020
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 746,020
  • FY 2016=$746,020
Start Date:08/15/2016
End Date:07/31/2020
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Collaborative Research: Viral Reefscapes: The Role of Viruses in Coral Reef Health, Disease, and Biogeochemical Cycling
Federal Award ID Number:1635913
DUNS ID:053599908
Parent DUNS ID:053599908
Program Officer:
  • Daniel J. Thornhill
  • (703) 292-8143

Awardee Location

Awardee Cong. District:04

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Oregon State University
Street:454 Nash Hall
Cong. District:04

Abstract at Time of Award

Ecologically and economically, coral reefs are among the most valuable ecosystems on Earth. These habitats are estimated to harbor up to nine million species, contribute ~30 billion US dollars annually to the global economy, and are tropical epicenters of biogeochemical cycling. Global (climate change) and local (nutrient pollution and overfishing) stressors are drivers of coral reef decline that can disrupt the symbiotic associations among corals and resident microbial communities, including dinoflagellate algae, bacteria, and viruses. Viruses interact with all living cellular organisms, are abundant in oceans, and integral to marine ecosystem functioning. This project will be the first to quantify the variability of viral infection in corals across different reef habitats and across time. This will increase our understanding of the total diversity of coral viruses and illuminate the full suite of factors that trigger viral outbreaks on reefs. At the same time the project will evaluate how carbon and nitrogen cycling are altered on coral reefs as a result of global and local stressors that trigger viral infection. This project will ultimately broaden our understanding of the impacts of viruses on reefs beyond their role as putative disease agents. Results of the project will be communicated broadly in scientific arenas, in K-12, undergraduate, and graduate education and training programs, and to the general public through video and multimedia productions, as well as outreach events. 2-D Reef Replicas from our field sites across Moorea will be constructed, allowing children and adults in the US and French Polynesia to 'become' marine scientists and use quadrats, transect tapes, and identification guides to quantify metrics of reef change. Three graduate students will be involved in all aspects of the research and an effort will be made to recruit and support minority students. All datasets will be made freely available to the public and newly developed methods from this project will serve as an important set of springboard tools and baselines for future lines of inquiry into the processes that influence reef health. Coral reefs, found in nutrient-poor shallow waters, are biodiversity and productivity hotspots that provide substantial ecological and societal benefits. Corals energetically subsidize these oligotrophic ecosystems by releasing significant amounts of mucus (an organic carbon and nitrogen-rich matrix) into the surrounding seawater. Viral production in reef waters can be a significant portion of total reef carbon cycling, accounting for ~10% of gross benthic carbon fixation in reef ecosystems. Viruses are also ~10 times more abundant on coral surfaces than in the water column meaning that viral infection experienced by corals during stress likely results is an increase in carbon and perhaps nitrogen flux to the water column. Thus phages and eukaryotic viruses may be responsible for shifting reef health and function directly via coral and symbiont infection and by altering biogeochemical cycling in host colonies and the adjacent reef system. The main goal of this project is to experimentally interrogate and then model the links among viral infections, declines in coral and reef health, and associated shifts in biogeochemical cycling in reef ecosystems. Lab and field experiments will be conducted at the Moorea Coral Reef LTER to characterize the spatiotemporal dynamics of viruses within two dominant reef-building coral species that differ in their susceptibility to abiotic stress. A novel viral infection and induction approach will be coupled with stable isotopic pulse-chase experiments to quantify and track carbon and nitrogen flux out of coral holobionts (host and microbial symbionts) and into dissolved and particulate pools. In these experiments, virus, bacteria, and symbiont abundance, diversity, and function will be measured simultaneously with the health and activity of the host. Pulse-chase techniques, as well as flux- and niche-based modeling, will result in a holistic understanding of how corals and associated viruses impact reef energy budgets and the ramifications of carbon and nitrogen flux for reef communities. Ultimately, this project will quantify and describe an integrated mechanism by which environmental stressors alter viral, microbial, and coral diversity and, consequently, ecosystem function.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

Seabrook, S. "Heterogeneity of methane seep biomes in the Northeast Pacific" Deep sea research. Part II, Topical studies in oceanography, v.150, 2018, p.. doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2017.10.016 Citation details  

Seabrook, Sarah and De Leo, Fabio C. and Thurber, Andrew R. "Flipping for Food: The Use of a Methane Seep by Tanner Crabs (Chionoecetes tanneri)" Frontiers in Marine Science, v.6, 2019, p.. doi:10.3389/fmars.2019.00043 Citation details  

Thurber, Rebecca Vega and Payet, Jérôme P. and Thurber, Andrew R. and Correa, Adrienne M. "Virus?host interactions and their roles in coral reef health and disease" Nature Reviews Microbiology, v.15, 2017, p.. doi:10.1038/nrmicro.2016.176 Citation details  

Maher, Rebecca L. and Rice, Mallory M. and McMinds, Ryan E. and Burkepile, Deron and Vega Thurber, Rebecca "Multiple stressors interact primarily through antagonism to drive changes in the coral microbiome" Scientific Reports, v.9, 2019, p.. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-43274-8 Citation details  

Roux, Simon and Adriaenssens, Evelien M and Dutilh, Bas E and Koonin, Eugene V and Kropinski, Andrew M and Krupovic, Mart and Kuhn, Jens H and Lavigne, Rob and Brister, J Rodney and Varsani, Arvind and Amid, Clara and Aziz, Ramy K and Bordenstein, Seth R "Minimum Information about an Uncultivated Virus Genome (MIUViG)" Nature Biotechnology, v.37, 2018, p.. doi:10.1038/nbt.4306 Citation details  

For specific questions or comments about this information including the NSF Project Outcomes Report, contact us.