Sarah Schwenck is a graduate student in the Allen lab studying viral impacts on the microbial community, with an emphasis on virus-phytoplankton interactions. Sarah completed her BS at the University of Arizona where she majored in biology and mathematics. While in Arizona, Sarah began studying ocean viruses as a member of the Tucson Marine Phage Lab and has not stopped since. Her undergraduate thesis focused on the impacts of physical gradients on viral community structure as she compared viral communities from an onshore and offshore station at eight depths throughout an oxygen minimum zone off the coast of Manzanillo, Mexico.

Research Interests:

  • Microbial community interactions and their influence on biogeochemistry
  • RNA viruses
  • Phytoplankton – virus interactions
  • Single cell -omics
  • Virus induced physiological/ metabolic changes

Sarah is primarily interested in the ecological and evolutionary impacts of marine viruses within microbial communities, with a specific interest in understanding more about virus- diatom interactions. Her current research is split in two main directions. The first investigates viral-induced mortality of microbial communities within the California Current Ecosystem to understand where and when viruses may have the most impact on global biogeochemical cycles. Her second project is focused on characterizing the infection of a +ssRNA virus for the pennate diatom Cylindrotheca. While diatoms are known to be highly influential phytoplankton (and account for ~40% of the oxygen we breathe), it is only recently that viruses have been acknowledged as mechanisms of diatom removal. Through this work, Sarah hopes to better understand the mechanism by which viruses are maintained in diatoms, which may have far reaching effects on how we understand oceanic food webs.

Selected publications:

Diner RE, SM Schwenck, JP McCrow, H Zheng, AE Allen. (2016) Genetic manipulation of competition for nitrate between heterotrophic bacteria and diatoms. Frontiers in Microbiology 7, 880.

Roux S, N Solonenko, VT Dang, BT Poulos, SM Schwenck, DB Goldsmith, ML Coleman, M Breitbart, MB Sullivan. (2016) Towards quantitative viromics for both double-stranded and single-stranded DNA viruses. PeerJ 4, e2777

Brum JR, JC Ignacio-Espinoza, S Roux, G Doulcier, SG Acinas, A Alberti, S Chaffron, C Crauaud, C De Vargas, JM Gasol, G Gorsky, AC Gregory, L Guidi, P Hingamp, D Iudicone, F Not, H Ogata, S Pesant, BT Poulos, SM Schwenck, S Speich, C Dimier, S Kandels-Lewis, M Picheral, S Searson, P Bork, C Bowler, S Sunagawa, P Wincker, E Karsenti, MB Sullivan. (2015) Patterns and ecological drivers of ocean viral communities. Science 348 (6237), 1261498