Plant Virus Biodiversity and Ecology

(Funded NSF-EPSCoR Program)

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Plant Virus Biodiversity and Ecology was one of two scientific theme areas in the State of Oklahoma's Research Infrastructure Improvement Award from the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for 2005-2008 funding. The theme area began receive funding in May 2005.


"Viruses, parasitic organisms that rely on their host for “life sustaining" functions, have been found associated with almost every known organism, from eubacteria to archaebacteria to eukaryotes. They are as diverse in structure and molecular biology as the hosts they are associated with. We have not yet encountered the totality of virus biodiversity. ... Their biodiversity and abundance suggest an important role for viruses in our ecosystems. To explore this role, we need information beyond the mere discovery and cataloging of viral sequences. We need to know virus host associations, their geographic distributions, how these change with time, and the principles that govern these associations and distributions. A thorough understanding of virus biodiversity will have profound implications for our understanding of the evolution and ecology of higher organisms." The EPSCoR program funded the creation of infrastructure to address these needs.

Major Findings

Sifting through and analysing the data obtained is still in progress. Tentatively, however, the following conclusions are likely forthcoming.

Virus abundance

Virus diversity

Host distribution of viruses

Novel features




Oklahoma is an ideal site for this exciting endeavor. Through previous EPSCoR support, Oklahoma had built strength in molecular technologies associated with genomics (sequencing, microarray hybridization, bioinformatics) at its major graduate educational institutions (OU, TU, OSU and OUHSC). Oklahoma’s substantial infrastructure in ecology and biodiversity includes not only its diverse natural areas and plant species, but also its facilities and personnel for analysis of this diversity.


Contact U. Melcher

Page posted June 14, 2004
Last updated November 13, 2009