The importance goes beyond the ocean’s critical role in balancing the planet’s health, he said.

“They represent the first and fundamental steps needed to assess the impact of viruses in humans, oceans or any ecosystem of interest,” he wrote.

The scientists in Sullivan’s lab, about 10 at present, gather samples on ocean voyages across the globe and have also gathered microbes and viruses in a series of experiments conducted in the lagoon biome of the UA’s Biosphere 2.

Sullivan’s lab uses those Biosphere 2 experiments to invent new ways to collect and analyze samples from the oceans.