Corina Brussaard studies the role of viruses in the functioning and dynamics of aquatic ecosystems, combining field research with detailed laboratory studies. New methods have recently been developed that enable the quick detection of viruses and the measurement of cell death in micro-organisms as a result of viral infections. This has generated new insights into the influence of viruses on the productivity of marine ecosystems – the complex network of plants and animals that live in a particular part of the ocean.
The focus of Brussaard’s research group is currently on the interaction between newly isolated viruses and the algae that serve as their hosts. In particular, the group is studying the impact of environmental factors such as CO2 concentration and temperature, and the availability of nutrients and light on the interaction between the viruses and algae. Part of this research is being conducted at the new Dutch research station on Antarctica.
In addition, Brussaard measures the influence of viral activity on the number of organic compounds in the oceans and on the structure of those compounds. Organic compounds are an important source of food in the open ocean. Since viral infections cause the death of single-cell hosts, viruses stimulate the conversion of the organic carbon that is present in the form of particles (the hosts) into dissolved organic carbon.
As professor by special appointment, Brussaard will further strengthen cooperation between the NIOZ and the UvA’s Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) over the next few years. She will endeavour to link her research into microbial viruses with the research clusters and priorities of the IBED and the UvA in such fields as biodiversity, element cycles, co-evolution under changing environmental conditions and systems biology. This will help to give a new impulse to research at the IBED into the interaction between virus species and their environment, and to further strengthen marine research at the UvA. Brussaard will also teach students, particularly in the areas of viral ecology, microbial ecology and biological oceanography.
Brussaard has worked at the NIOZ since 2000 and was appointed senior researcher in marine viral ecology at the NIOZ in 2003. Previously, she held a postdoc position at the Institute for Microbiology at the University of Bergen (Norway). She obtained her doctorate on cell death in algae at the University of Groningen. Brussaard is vice president of the international Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) and the International Society for Viruses of Microorganisms (ISVM). In addition, she is an editor ofFEMS Microbiology Reviews.