Research

I work across ecosystems, from plants to animals, and from the tropics to the Antarctic with a strong focus on viral evolution and dynamics, and viral metagenomics. My research uses a combination of traditional virology, microscopy (including transmission electron microscopy), molecular and cellular biology techniques in conjunction with modern techniques including next-generation sequencing, synthetic biology and bioinformatics. A brief overview of my current research projects is provided below.

  • Darren Martin (author of the most widely used recombination detection software; South Africa) and I have set up a wide collaborative network of scientists world-wide to study viral evolution though recombination, viral phylogeography and global viral movement patterns of the plant-infecting geminiviruses and nanoviruses. While initially our research was based in Africa and South America, recently we have also focused on the Pacific region. As a team, Philippe Roumagnac, Pierre Lefeuvre, Darren Martin and I are attempting to identify drivers of plant viral emergence in ecosystems.

  • In collaboration with Mya Breitbart, Karyna Rosario and Milen Marinov, I have embarked on a unique concept of using top end insect predators to sample viromes in various ecosystems. Additionally, my group has recently started looking at human and animal viruses vectored by black flies and mosquitoes in New Zealand and the pacific islands.

  • I have an active avian circoviurs disease research program with the Department of Conservation of New Zealand, Parc Zoologique et Forestier (New Caledonia), Bethany Jackson (Murdoch University, Australia), Tomasz Stenzel (University of Warmia and Mazury, Poland) and Tomasz Piasecki (Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Poland).

  • I am running a variety of viral discovery projects associated with bark beetles in the US, fruit bats in the pacific island of Tonga, various fungi, farm animals, insects and molluscs in New Zealand.

  • In a collaborative effort, David Ainley (penguin ecologist, USA), Grant Ballard (penguin ecologist, USA), Stacey Kim (marine ecologist, USA), Jennifer Burns (seal ecologist, USA) Melanie Massaro (avian ecologist, Australia), Joseph Levy (permafrost geologist, USA), William Davison (fish physiologist, New Zealand) and I are exploring the diversity of viral communities in the Antarctic.