Increasing use of sequencing approaches such as metagenomics has allowed the generation of massive quantities of ‘viral dark matter’ from microbiomes, which refers to viruses, viral genomes and proteins which are abundant in the gut microbiota but are poorly characterized. We are interested in studying the ecology, evolution, and diversity of viruses in nature.
Bacteriophages are known to modulate host metabolism using a combination of auxiliary metabolic genes stolen from their hosts, as well as overall modulation of host metabolism during infection. Such phage-driven metabolism can impact microbial community structure, community metabolism, contribute to proliferation of specific microorganisms, and impact overall environmental and gut health. We are studying the roles of viruses in driving metabolic processes, elemental transformations, and biogeochemistry using viral impacts on sulfur metabolism as a model.