Forest Rohwer, Ph.D.

San Diego State University


Viral symbiosis: A process by which organisms and ecosystems acclimatize to changing conditions by assembling with different viruses.

Forest Rohwer, Ph.D.

Research Description

Viral symbiosis is the most common type of symbiosis, however the mechanisms by which viruses, bacteria and animals form stable and functional units are still poorly understood. The goal of my work is to understand viral symbiosis sufficiently to help adapt corals to changing environmental conditions.

Research Impact

My research spans many areas of biology because I have been extremely lucky both in terms of mentors and the availability of certain technologies. As a post-doc and early career scientist, the ability to sequence uncultured viral genomes, as well as the computing power to analyze this DNA data, opened up whole new worlds. Building on this early work, my lab has shown that viruses are important mediators of symbiosis, including the rise of opportunistic pathogens, in organisms as diverse as corals and humans. Some of this work has shown that viruses are essential for a novel immune system that protects animals from bacteria. And we have come to realize that viruses are some of the most successful life forms on the planet and it is essential to consider their influences to understand life.


related links

Science Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems San Diego State University Research Foundation Back


  • B.S., Biology, Chemistry, and History, College of Idaho, USA
  • Ph.D., Molecular Immunology, University of California San Diego/San Diego State University Joint Doctoral Program in Molecular Biology, USA
  • Postdoctoral study, Microbial Ecology, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA