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Viruses play a major role in controlling biodiversity and ecology of aquatic microbial communities. They control their hosts’ evolution by allowing genetic exchange, induce significant mortality in the prokaryotic biomass, and control ecosystem’s productivity by redirecting carbon into the microbial loop.
The arctic cryosphere is a reservoir for such viruses. Indeed, glaciers and permafrost, with their freeze-thaw cycles, can release viral particles that have been trapped in ice for thousands of years, recycling their genomes into modern environments. These viruses can be released into the atmosphere and recolonize aquatic ecosystems of the arctic landscape or include pathogens that could impact human health in the North. Climate change has accelerated permafrost and glacier thawing, increasing humidity and leading to greater aerosolization from water, which could increase the amount of viruses in the air and their potential dispersion in the landscape.
The “aerosol virome”, the atmospheric viral community, has long been studied in hospitals, as it can influence transmission of infectious diseases. However, few studies have focused on environmental aerosol viromes, and none have explored viruses that can be released into the atmosphere from thawing glaciers and permafrost. This is of major importance in ecology, as this recycling of newly released viral genomes could allow for a new colonization of the Arctic. This could have consequences on human health in the North, and on ecosystem productivity and nutrient transfer.
The goal of this project is to describe for the first time environmental viral aerosols in the North, and to determine how the thawing of the cryosphere contributes to the release and dispersion of viruses across the landscape. By comparing sites with different levels of hydrological connectivity and anthropic influence (Thores Lake, Ward Hunt Island, Resolute Bay), I investigate the following questions:
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Chételat, J., Amyot, M., Arp, P., Blais, J.M., Depew, D., Emmerton, C.A., Evans, M., Gamberg, M., Gantner, N., Girard, C., Graydon, J., Kirk, J., Lean, D., Lehnherr, I., Muir, D., Nasr, M., Poulain, A.J., Power, M., Roach, P., Stern, G., Swanson, H., van der Velden, S., 2015. Mercury in freshwater ecosystems of the Canadian Arctic: Recent advances on its cycling and fate. Science of the Total Environment, 509-510(Special Issue: Mercury in Canada's North): 41-66. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.05.151.
MacMillan, G.A., Girard, C., Chételat, J., Laurion, I., Amyot, M., 2015. High methylmercury in arctic and subarctic ponds is related to nutrient levels in the warming Eastern Canadian Arctic. Environmental Science & Technology, 49(13): 7743-7753. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b00763.