Delving Below the Species Level To Characterize the Ecological Diversity within the Global Virome

Rachel Hsu
Rachel Hsu

Rachel Hsu is a rising junior (’23) and Biology and Psychology double major. She is from Shanghai, China and was Class of 2019 from Shanghai American School. Outside of the lab, Rachel likes to engage herself in competitive but collaborative activities (MOBA games) and develop her knowledge in pop culture and visual media (watching Netflix). After graduation, she plans on raising two cats and zero children.

Schuyler Sloman
Schuyler Sloman

Schuyler Sloman is a rising Senior (‘22) from New York City where he attended Saint Ann’s School for High School. When he is not researching avian influenza with the Cohan Lab he plays for a Jewish intramural basketball team, acts in student films, and plays boggle. He is currently working towards completing the Computer Science Major and the Writing Certificate.


The Global Virome Project aims to discover new viruses at the species level, while the goal of our project is to discover ecological differences within the virus species. On a broader scale, our influenza project aims to identify phylogenetic trees of putative ecotypes for viruses found in wild water birds that have the potential to spillover to humans. We are looking for evidence of ecological divergence among H3N8 ecotypes based on differences in host bird associations within the interior Alaska region. We obtained data of the virus in multiple host species of ducks — such as mallards, northern shovelers, northern pintails, and green-winged teals — from the NCBI database and reorganized the data to only include samples with all eight segments of the virus. Afterwards, we used Ecotype Simulation 2 to model the divergence of H3N8 ecotypes. Ecotype Simulation, uses a Monte-Carlo approach to modeling the evolutionary dynamics of a microbial population based on the Stable Ecotype Model of microbial speciation. Here we demonstrate a proof of concept based on “reverse ecology” for easily discovering ecological diversity within a virus species taxon. We aim to discover significant heterogeneity among ecotypes for their associations with different host birds.


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Thursday, July 29th 1:15-2:30pm EDT