Effects of Viruses on the Development of Harmful Algal Blooms

Project Title: Effects of viruses on the development of harmful algal blooms

Principal Investigator(s): Dr. Zhi (George) Zhou, Purdue University, School of Civil Engineering and Division of Environmental and Ecological Engineering

Dates: March 2017-February 2018

Total Federal Funds:  Total Non-Federal Funds:

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Dr. Gary Lamberti

Harmful algal blooms (HAB) are overgrowth of algae that could foul up surface waters, consume oxygen in the water, and produce harmful toxins to humans and animals. HABs have been reported as a major environmental problem in all 50 states of the United States. Many studies have been done on the factors that can affect the development of HABs, such as sunlight, temperature, low turbulence, and nutrient sources, but only limited studies have been down to evaluate the effects of viruses on the development of HABs, in spite that viruses are the most abundant biological entities in aquatic systems and some studies suggest that viruses are driving the life-and-death dynamics of algal blooms. The overall goal of this project is to evaluate the effects of viruses on the development of harmful algal blooms. The specific research objectives are to: 1) develop qPCR primers to quickly and accurately quantify virus abundance; 2) evaluate the growth and decay of algal cells under the exposure of various nutrient loading; and 3) elucidate the mechanisms of virus infection on the decay of algal cells. Upon the successful completion of this project, we expect to have elucidated the mechanism of the development algal cells under the exposure of difference levels of nutrients and gained in-depth knowledge on the effects of viruses that contribute to the development of algal blooms. The improved fundamental understanding of effects of viruses on microbial structure and functions of algae are expected to have significant potentials to be applied to develop control strategies for HABs, which is still one of the most costly and challenging environmental problems in the world.