text-only page produced automatically by Usablenet Assistive Skip all navigation and go to page content Skip top navigation and go to directorate navigation Skip top navigation and go to page navigation
National Science Foundation
design element
Search Awards
Recent Awards
Presidential and Honorary Awards
About Awards
Grant Policy Manual
Grant General Conditions
Cooperative Agreement Conditions
Special Conditions
Federal Demonstration Partnership
Policy Office Website

Award Abstract #1342876

Dimensions: Costs and benefits of chronic viral infections in natural ecosystems

Division Of Environmental Biology
divider line
Initial Amendment Date: September 12, 2013
divider line
Latest Amendment Date: January 14, 2016
divider line
Award Number: 1342876
divider line
Award Instrument: Standard Grant
divider line
Program Manager: Simon Malcomber
DEB Division Of Environmental Biology
BIO Direct For Biological Sciences
divider line
Start Date: October 1, 2013
divider line
End Date: September 30, 2018 (Estimated)
divider line
Awarded Amount to Date: $1,997,415.00
divider line
Investigator(s): Mark Young myoung@montana.edu (Principal Investigator)
Joshua Weitz (Co-Principal Investigator)
Rachel Whitaker (Co-Principal Investigator)
divider line
Sponsor: Montana State University
BOZEMAN, MT 59717-2470 (406)994-2381
divider line
NSF Program(s): Dimensions of Biodiversity
divider line
Program Reference Code(s): 7968, 9150, 9169, EGCH, SMET
divider line
Program Element Code(s): 7968


This research project will investigate a new hypothesis about how viruses may control the structure and function of microbial communities. The traditional view of viruses is that they negatively impact the fitness of infected hosts. In other words, they are viewed strictly as pathogens, in which the host tries to eliminate the virus. This project will explore an alternative hypothesis: that chronic viral infections contribute positively to host fitness, increasing the success of the virus-host pair by protecting their hosts from infection by even more pathogenic viruses. Under this model, the competitive advantage provided by many viruses plays a direct role in maintaining microbial biodiversity. Microbial communities in hot springs in Yellowstone National Park will be used to test this hypothesis by: i) linking temporal changes in virus abundance and diversity to host genetic and taxonomic diversity, ii) identifying chronic viruses, and quantifying the fitness consequences of chronic viral infections in the laboratory, iii) assessing the effects of removing viruses in laboratory and field experiments, and iv) developing a theoretical and computational model of host-viral interactions that includes the costs and benefits of chronic infections. It is anticipated that this research will provide new insights into how viruses influence not only microbial biodiversity, but also the biodiversity of plants and animals.

This research will be of broad scientific importance. It is known that microbes play a significant role in life on earth, including as the foundation for earth's food webs, influencing carbon and nitrogen cycles, and in human health. Viruses infect all forms of life, including microbes. This study will reveal more about how viruses impact the composition and function of ecosystems. The research project also will engage K-12 teachers, students, and the public on the science of biodiversity using Yellowstone National Park as a highly attractive and visible venue for public interest in science. The investigators will create field courses for K-12 science teachers, virtual classrooms from Yellowstone to K-12 schools, online courses and workshops, and nationally aired films focused on microbial research in Yellowstone. Results from this project are expected to reveal fundamental new knowledge about the biodiversity of life on earth.


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.

Childs, Lauren, England, Whitney, Young, Mark, Weitz, Joshua, Whitaker, Rachel. "CRISPR-Induced Distributed Immunity in Microbial Populations," PloS One, v.9, 2014, p. journal.p.

Benjamin Bolduc, Jennifer Wirth, Aurélien Mazurie & Mark J. Young. "Viral community composition in Yellowstone acidic hot springs assessed by network analysis.," ISME J., 2014. 

Nikki Dellas, Jamie C. Snyder, Benjamin Bolduc, and Mark J. Young. "Archaeal Viruses: Diversity, Replication, and Structure," Annual Reviews of Virology, 2014. 

Snyder, J., Bolduc, B., Young, M. "40 years of archaeal virology: Expanding viral diversity," Virology, 2015. 

Hochstein, R., Bollschweilier, D., Engelhardt, H., Lawerence, CM., Young, M.. "Large tailed spindle viruses of Archaea: A new way of doing viral business," J. Virology, 2015. 

Bautista, M., Zhang, C., Whitaker, R. "Virus-induced dormancy in the archaeon Sulfolobus islandicus," mBIO, 2015. 


Please report errors in award information by writing to: awardsearch@nsf.gov.



Print this page
Back to Top of page
Research.gov  |  USA.gov  |  National Science Board  |  Recovery Act  |  Budget and Performance  |  Annual Financial Report
Web Policies and Important Links  |  Privacy  |  FOIA  |  NO FEAR Act  |  Inspector General  |  Webmaster Contact  |  Site Map
National Science Foundation Logo
The National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22230, USA
Tel: (703) 292-5111, FIRS: (800) 877-8339 | TDD: (800) 281-8749
  Text Only Version