New Brunswick, N.J. (April 6, 2021) – Rutgers University–New Brunswick microbial oceanographer Kay D. Bidle is available for interviews on the persistent and profound impact of viral infections on algae in the oceans. These infections influence the Earth’s carbon cycle, which helps moderate climate change.
“Viral infections have a persistent and powerful impact on Earth’s biological organisms and ecosystems, including in the oceans. The global COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the harm viruses can cause, and COVID-19 has transformed how society thinks about viruses,” said Kay D. Bidle, a professor and microbial oceanographer in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick and Rutgers’ Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “Viral ‘pandemics’ are frequent in the oceans, causing phytoplankton (algal) populations to wax and wane weekly and over predictable cycles. These widespread viral infections, which span hundreds of thousands of square miles (the size of large states) and are detectable by Earth observing satellites, have a profound impact on Earth’s carbon cycle, dictating whether carbon is transported to the deep ocean and sequestered for hundreds to thousands of years or whether it remains in the surface ocean and available to enter the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Viruses inherently influence the oceans’ ability to store carbon dioxide in the face of climate change.”
“The ‘arms races’ that rage between viruses and the microscopic algal cells they infect play a critical role in the Earth’s carbon cycle,” Bidle added. “And they likely have been doing so for at least hundreds of millions of years, based on molecular and fossil evidence of the presence of these algae in the oceans.”
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