Michael Carlson


B.A. Biology and History. Pomona College. Claremont, CA (2008).

M.S. and Ph.D. Oceanography. University of Washington. Seattle, WA (2008-present)


Research Interests: Ecology of marine viruses

My interests in marine virology began with studying viruses in coral reef ecosystems during my undergraduate career at Pomona College. I focused on the distribution of human associated adenoviruses found in corals and water in Kane’ohe Bay, Hawaii and their potential for being used as a proxy for anthropogenic impact in the bay.

At the University of Washington, I am researching viruses that infect the diatom Pseudo-nitzschia. This marine phytoplankton can produce domoic acid, which results in amnesic shellfish poisoning if consumed. Diatoms are also incredibly important primary producers and therefore their propulations have a direct impact on the global carbon cycle. Viruses are important regulators of marine communities and have been shown to cause the demise of phytoplankton blooms, be important in lateral gene transfer, and influence nutrient cycling. The implications of better understanding the dynamics between viruses and Psuedo-nitzschia range from developing warning systems for communities affected by harmful algal blooms, clarifying the controls on carbon cycling, and more.

Currently, I am isolating and characterizing viruses that infect Pseudo-nitzschia in order to develop a model host-virus system. I am further exploring this model host-virus system by surveying the transcriptional response of both the host and the virus over the infection cycle. I hope that by understanding the process of host takeover by the virus and the resulting host response, I can then use this information to look for signatures of infection in the environment by pairing viral metagenomes with host metatranscriptomes. Ultimately, I hope this research begins to lay the groundwork for quantitatively linking the importance of viruses in the marine environment to biogeochemical cycles and the evolution and ecology of diatoms and their viruses.