Rohwer Wegley-Kelly Lab

The Lab

Rohwer Lab

Lab Members
We have a diverse group of researchers in the lab that include undergraduate volunteers, graduate students (MS & PhD), post-docs, and visiting scientists.

Join the Lab
Our lab offers research and training opportunities for students (undergraduate, MS, PhD), postdocs, and scientists.

Lab Training & Methods
Learn how to build the tools that we use to explore diverse ecosystems.


Life in Our Phage World book cover

To celebrate a century of phage exploration, we invite you to get intimate with 30 diverse phages in this premier phage field guide. In these 404 pages you'll learn who these phages are, where on Earth they've been found, who their close relatives are, how their genomes are structured, and how they trick their hosts into submission. Researchers who have devoted their lives to phage also recount their experiences in pursuit of their quarry.

The book is available in electronic (PDF) format for free. It can be downloaded as a high-resolution (323 Mb) or lower resolution (75 Mb) file. For optimal viewing, display the pages with the two-page view that includes the cover.

Electronic Book Downloads

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Hardcover Book Purchases

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Forest Rohwer - Coral Book

For millennia, coral reefs have flourished as not only one of the planet's most magnificent ecosystems, but also as its most biodiverse. However, since the 1980s the corals have been struggling. Both coral bleaching and disease have spread globally. During recent research expeditions to the remote Line Islands, microbial ecologist Forest Rohwer and his colleagues found that the large-scale changes to the reefs in recent decades are the work of the microbes as they respond to various human impacts.

Coral Reefs in the Microbial Seas is the first book to recount this story, complete with introductions to the coral reef ecosystem, 21st century metagenomic research tools, and the coral's microbial and viral partners. An engaging book, its science is liberally spiced with artistic illustrations and playful stories from the research expeditions.

Book Downloads

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The aesthetics of coral reefs

Nov 18, 2015

Awesome science of the week

News Article

The story behind the paper by @JeremyJBarr on phage using mucus to hunt prey

Oct 22, 2015

Jeremy Barr's article featured at the Tree of Life website

News Article

The Phage is a Lonely Hunter

Oct 19, 2015

New research reveals that bacteriophages use slow, staccato movements to hunt bacteria on cell surfaces.

News Article

PNAS: Subdiffusive motion of bacteriophage in mucosal surfaces increases the frequency of bacterial encounters

Oct 19, 2015

PNAS paper

Bacteriophages (phages) are viruses that infect and kill bacteria. Being inanimate, phages rely on diffusion to search for bacterial prey. Here we demonstrate that a phage that adheres weakly to mucus exhibits subdiffusive motion, not normal diffusion, in mucosal surfaces. Supporting theory and experiments revealed that subdiffusive motion increases bacterial encounter rates for phages when bacterial concentration is low. To the best of our knowledge, no other predator has been shown to effectively use a subdiffusive search mechanism. Mucosal surfaces are vulnerable to infection. Mucus-adherent phages reduce bacterial infection of lifelike mucosal surfaces more effectively than nonadherent phages. These findings provide a basis for engineering adherent phages to manipulate mucosal surface microbiomes for protection from infection and other purposes.

News Article

Microbe Magazine Book Review: Life in Our Phage World

May 14, 2015
News Article New Drawings Show the Strange Beauty of Phages, the Bacteria Slayers

Mar 09, 2015
News Article

Inside the World of Viral Dark Matter

Feb 16, 2015

A celebration of the phage centennial in The New Yorker.

News Article

Life in Our Phage World Published! Commemorates the First 100 Years of Phage Exploration

Dec 02, 2014

Every second of every day, 1031 phage virions move about the Earth in search of their microbial prey. Some phage quickly infect and kill their host cell to release a burst of progeny, while others briefly join forces with their host to create deadly pathogens. Many more will die while trekking through inhospitable terrain in search of their next victim. Such phage behaviors spur microbial diversification and gene sharing, while stimulating ecosystem productivity. Earth would be lifeless without its phages.

Two years ago, in anticipation of the 2015 centennial of the discovery of phage, Forest decided that Earth’s most numerous and diverse biological entities should no longer be overlooked. To propel phages into the spotlight he assembled a group of fellow phage-lovers to create this field guide . Together they gathered information about the behavior, lifestyle decisions, global whereabouts, and genetic capability of 30 phages. The phages were pleased, for they were finally given a voice. Now more of them are ready to speak.

Life in Our Phage World only scratches the surface of phage story space. Our phage world is vast and diverse, too large for one volume to encompass. This book is the first step. As discoveries continue there are still innumerable stories left to unfold; stories of microbial killing, multi-species collaboration, ecosystem domination, and molecular innovation. Listen closely to the phages near you as they go about their daily business. We welcome short stories from you, written or told through illustration, that illuminate life in our phage world. Please join us as the next century of phage exploration begins!

Book Downloads
High-resolution (323 Mb) and lower resolution (75 Mb) versions of the book in PDF format are available for download for free. For optimal viewing, display the pages with the two-page view that includes the cover.

Low-resolution (75 Mb)
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Principal Investigators

Forest Rohwer, PhD

Forest RohwerBeing a marine microbial ecologist, Dr. Forest Rohwer sees a coral reef as a finely-tuned community in which the microbes and viruses are major players. Recognizing their importance, he pioneered the use of metagenomics as a means to characterize these previously inscrutable organisms and to investigate their role in coral reef health and disease.

For his scientific contributions, he has received numerous awards including the prestigious Young Investigators Award of the International Society of Microbial Ecology and the Marine Microbiology Initiative Investigator Award from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Linda Wegley Kelly, PhD

Linda Wegley-KellyDrs. Wegley Kelly and Rohwer have been working together since 2001. She has directed research projects on everything from fluorescent-labeled phage to large-scale metagenomic from deep mines, salterns, and coral reefs to ammonium oxidizing Archaea.

Linda's research group mostly works on coral-associated microbes. She uses a combination of large-scale DNA sequencing (e.g., metagenomics), analytical chemistry, and microbiology to study how the coral holobiont changes in response to local and global stressors. Linda recently showed that shipwrecks cause devastating outbreaks of algal-microbial mats the kill kilometers of coral reefs in the iron-poor parts of the central Pacific.

Research Areas

Coral Research

CoralCoral reefs worldwide are in decline. The dramatic rise in incidences of coral disease over the last two decades has been instrumental in this process. We have hypothesized that most of these diseases are actually opportunistic infections instigated by anthropogenic stressors. Our research is focused around understanding the interactions between the microbial world and coral reefs, and how these systems change following perturbation.

Human Research

CFWe are currently investigating the dynamics of bacteria, phage, and eukaryotic viruses in the respiratory tracts of individuals with and without Cystic Fibrosis. Characterization of viral communities coupled with microbial transcriptomics and viral metagenomics will allow a better understanding of how the unique environment of the CF airway drives microbial and viral specialization and vice versa.

Related Websites

Outreach Education

Phage Outreach Program

Phage OutreachOur mission is to interest high school students in the study of the Phage Virus and attract them to the field of science in the future. We will do this by sharing the most interesting aspects about the phage virus along with an educational foundation, a fun art contest, and an in-depth field trip. Additionally, 3-5 motivated students will be offered a summer internship at our lab researching the Phage Virus.

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Rohwer Laboratory, San Diego State University.

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Lab Info
North Life Sciences Biology Bldg
San Diego State University

PDF: Lab Directions
Map: 32.777818, -117.071543

Forest Rohwer, PhD
Professor of Biology
SDSU Dept. of Biology