Suttle LaboratoryAbout the Image
Marine Virology and Microbiology

principle investigator | research scientist | post-doctoral fellows | graduate students | undergraduate students
associated members | visiting members | previous members of the Suttle lab


Curtis Suttle
Curtis Suttle
Principle Investigator
E-mail: csuttle@eos.ubc.ca
As the Principal Investigator, Curtis oversees all of the Suttle Lab's research. He is also a Professor in the Departments of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Botany and Microbiology & Immunology as well as being an Associate Dean of the Faculty of Science at UBC. [more info]

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Amy Chan
Amy Chan
Research Scientist
E-mail: achan@eos.ubc.ca
Amy Chan is a Research Scientist involved in multiple projects for the Suttle Lab. Her recent work has involved sampling expeditions to the Mars Analog site at Pavilion Lake, as well as the depths of several different mines in Canada and Mexico. In addition to her research activities she oversees general management of the lab.

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Jennifer Wirth
Jennifer Wirth
Post-Doctoral Fellow
My background is in archaeal virus – host interactions in the terrestrial hot springs environments of Yellowstone National Park. I have been particularly interested in the recently described CRISPR/Cas adaptive immune system of Bacteria and Archaea. I am continuing to pursue the function of the CRISPR/Cas system in complex natural environments, both marine and other terrestrial systems. I am also interested in using CRISPR sequences to probe viral metagenomes for novel viruses as well as to link viruses to their potential hosts.

Cheryl Chow
Chery Chow
Post-Doctoral Fellow
I am currently interested in investigating viral genetic diversity, biogeography, and influence on biogeochemical cycles through adaptation and optimization of single cell molecular and bioinformatics tools for marine viruses. My previous work includes analysis of temporal variability in viral, bacterial, and protistan communities and determining how community variability relates to environmental change at the San Pedro Ocean Time-series station (SPOT). [CV]

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Caroline Chénard
Caroline Chénard
Ph.D. student, Oceanography
Caroline is a PhD student in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences. Her research focuses on characterizing the viral assemblages associated with the cyanobacterial communities found in High Arctic freshwater systems as part of the IPY-MERGE program. She is using genomic comparison as well as metagenomics to fill the gaps in our knowledge of the viral genetic composition of polar freshwater systems. [more info]


Jessica Labonté
Jessica Labonté
Ph.D. student, Microbiology
Jessica is a Ph.D. student interested in the diversity, origin and evolution of viruses. Her research focuses mainly on ssDNA viruses which are widely distributed in marine environments, infecting both bacteria and eukaryotes. Using metagenomics and PCR-based methods, she's learning more about the genetic diversity of these previously unknown viruses in order to understand their distribution and evolution.


Marli Vlok
Marli Vlok
Ph.D. student, Botany
Being a firm believer of the RNA world and the fact that viruses rule it, Marli is delving into the realm of marine RNA virus biodiversity where she’ll be chipping away at the sheer abundance and development of these communities. Based on metagenomic data, she will be using deep amplicon sequencing to further analyse relatively unknown marine viral families. With this work Marli hopes to add to the growing knowledge of the underrated marine RNA viruses and help establish them as a major pool of genetic diversity in our marine ecosystems.


Jan Finke
Jan Finke
Ph.D. student, Oceanography
Jan is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences. For his project he is studying the temporal and spatial variations of cyanophage communities. This includes variations in the abundances of cyanophages and cyanobacteria as well as diversity studies. Furthermore, he is interested in the function and role of host derived metabolic genes in cyanophages. The goal is to understand the correlation of the genetic diversity of marine viruses and their success to infect host cells under varying environmental conditions. This will help to understand the response of marine ecosystems to environmental changes, improving the quality of models and predictions about ecological changes in the future.

Emma Shelford
Emma Shelford
Ph.D. student, Oceanography
Emma has always loved the ocean and everything in it, big and small. She’s focusing on the small in her PhD work, by studying the interactions of viruses, bacteria, and protists. When viruses infect and lyse bacteria, all the components of bacterial cells are released to the environment. Protists ingesting grazers also release excretory products. These released materials are used by other bacteria as energy or nutrient sources; these bacteria then release ammonium as a by-product of their metabolism. Ammonium is a valuable source of nitrogen for primary producers. Viruses are usually seen as a sink of living carbon (when they kill bacteria), but they may actually enable growth of primary producers.

Julia Gustavson
Julia Gustavson
Ph.D. student, Oceanography
Julia Gustavsen is a PhD student in EOS who is examining the diversity and richness of marine viruses across spatial and temporal scales. Two approaches are being used to examine these patterns: the first is the construction of RNA viral metagenomes and the second is the use of deep amplicon sequencing of well-conserved viral genes. Temporal scale will be addressed by repeated samplings at a Vancouver site (Jericho Pier) for a year and spatial scale through a transect in the Strait of Georgia. These data will show how viral communities shift with time and space. Additionally, shifts in potential host communities and environmental parameters at each site will be investigated. Through these studies she hopes to better understand what drives viral diversity in the ocean.

Richard White
Richard White
Ph.D. student, Microbiology
Richard Allen White III is a PhD student in the Department of Microbiology studying total microbial diversity in the Pavilion lake Mars analog site using deep amplicon sequencing and metagenomics. His research interests include extremophiles, host-viral interactions and viral metagenomics.

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Alvin Tian
Alvin Tian
M.Sc. student, Bioinformatics
Alvin is a second year Masters student in the bioinformatics training program. His main research is to find biomarkers that could be used to test water quality. He is also interested in biogeography, virus-host interaction and metagenomics using techniques in bioinformatics.




Tyler Nelson
Tyler Nelson
B.Sc. student, Integrated Sciences
Tyler is a third year B.Sc. student in the Integrated Sciences program, specializing in virology, biogeography, and bioinformatics. As part of a NSERC USRA, he is assisting with several projects including doing an electron tomography of CroV (Cafeteria roenbergensis virus), examining polar cyanophage, and analyzing a metagenome. [more info]

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Jessica Clasen
Jessica Clasen
Associated Member
Post-Doctoral Fellow with the Shurin and Harley Labs
Coastal oceans are some of the most important ecosystems for human well-being, but also the most impacted by human activities. One dramatic example of our impact is the near extinction of sea otters in the North Pacific caused by hunting. As otter abundance decreased their predation pressure on marine invertebrates also decreased, causing sea urchin populations to increase at the expense of the kelp forests. Kelp forests are areas of both high productivity and diversity. Kelp provide structure for habitat, alter hydrographic flows as well as support productivity by suppling nutrients and energy into coastal ecosystems. The loss of kelp forests caused by the removal of the top-down control of sea otters has drastically affected the near shore coastal ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest. An unexplored aspect in this interaction is the effect of sea otters on microbial communities. Microbes are abundant, diverse and dynamic components of aquatic ecosystems, mediating important processes such as decomposition and providing a link for energy flow between detritus and higher consumers like zooplankton and fish. My research seeks to understand the secondary effects of keystone species on ecosystems by focusing on how sea otters influence the composition and function of microbial communities. I employ molecular and experimental techniques to determine how the presence of sea otters influences the diversity, abundance and function of near-shore bacterial communities. I am part of a larger project (Costal Ecosystem Services amongst Trophic Cascades project) which seeks to explore the effect of sea otters on both ecosystem structure and services, working with the J. Shurin, C. Harley, K. Chan and E. Pakhomov labs at UBC.
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