Boris Wawrik, Ph. D.

Associate Professor
706 George Lynn Cross Hall
770 Van Vleet Oval
Norman, OK 73019
405-325-8596 (Office)

B.S., Biology, University of South Florida 1998
Ph.D., Marine Science, University of South Florida 2003
Postdoc, Rutgers University 2003-2007

Research areas: Microbiology, Environmental Science, Anaerobic Microbiology, Molecular and Cellular Biology

Research interests:

The common thread throughout my research has been a vision to reconcile molecular microbial community ecology with geochemical perspectives. It is difficult to overstate the contribution that DNA-based approaches have made to the way microbiologists understand microbial communities in the environment. However, while molecular tools offer unprecedented resolution with respect to phylogenetic and functional diversity, they lack inherent information regarding underlying biogeochemical activities that give rise to emergent properties of microbial communities and ecosystems. Conversely, measurements of geochemical rates (e.g. the rate of carbon or nitrogen fixation) have been immensely useful in understanding patterns of microbial activity in the environment, yet techniques used to measure rate processes are inherently limited in that they do not identify the requisite microorganisms involved. The focus of my research has been to bridge this gap by leveraging molecular tools as part of collaborative projects that integrate rate measurements and ecosystem perspectives in aquatic, soil, and subsurface environments. The fundamental ideas at the core of my work are that: (a) RNA can serve as a proxy for microbial activity, (b) microbial communities are often best understood by engaging in an integrated, multidisciplinary analysis that considers physical and chemical parameters, biochemical capabilities of communities, and ecosystems as a whole, and (c) experimentation using tracers can provide insight into the identity of active community members.

A significant portion of my research focuses on marine systems. The marine microbiome is the largest contiguous and arguably most complex ecosystem on Earth. It plays a central role in modulating global biogeochemical cycles and is tightly linked to climate-feedback processes. Key to the behavior of climate and marine ecosystems are the fates of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N), the biogeochemical cycles of which have been greatly altered by human activities over the past century. Going forward, it will be critically important to anticipate alterations to these cycles as they relate to climate change in order to help mitigate or reduce the resulting human, economic, and environmental costs. Much of my work has focused on linking specific microbial populations to individual C and N transformation processes (C-fixation and N uptake).
In addition, I have been involved in projects that target varying aspects of bacterial hydrocarbon metabolism in laboratory cultures and in the environment. Hydrocarbons are energy dense molecules that are created in the environment by both biological and abiotic processes. Many microorganisms are adapted to utilizing these molecules as energy sources, representing an important link in the global C cycle. Understanding the mechanisms involved in hydrocarbon degradation, as well as the distribution and activity of the requisite organisms, is therefore of importance when considering the global C cycle on long time scales. Related insights also provide baseline knowledge for biodegradation and remediation studies. Requisite genetic elements can, for example, serve as biomarkers for microorganisms involved in specific biochemical transformations.

Relevant publications:

Wawrik, B., Stable Isotope Probing the N cycle: Current Applications and Future Directions. In: Metagenomics of the Microbial Nitrogen Cycle: Theory, Methods and Applications. 2013. Horizon Scientific Press. Diana Marco (Ed.).

Boling, W.B., G.Sinclair and B. Wawrik. 2012. Molecular Detection of Calanoid Prey Species by Gut Content Analysis. Marine Biology 159(1): 1-7

Wawrik, B., M. Mendivelso, V.A. Parisi, J.M. Suflita, I.A. Davidova, C.R. Marks, J.D. Van Nostrand, Y. Liang, J. Zhou, B.J. Huizinga, D. Strąpoć, and A.V. Callaghan. 2012. Field and Laboratory Studies on the Bio-Conversion of Coal to Methane. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, special issue on subsurface microbiology 81(1): 26-42.

Wawrik, B., W.B. Boling, J.D. Van Nostrand, J. Xie, J. Zhou, and D.A. Bronk. 2012. Assimilatory Nitrate Utilization by Bacteria on the West Florida Shelf as Determined by Stable Isotope Probing and Functional Microarray Analysis. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 79(2): 400-411.

Callaghan, A.V., B.E.L. Morris, I.A.C. Pereira, M.J. McInerney, R.N. Austin, J. T. Groves, J.J. Kukor, J.M. Suflita, L.Y. Young , G.J. Zylstra, and B. Wawrik. 2012. The Genome Sequence of Desulfatibacillum alkenivorans AK-01: A Blueprint for Anaerobic Alkane Oxidation. Environmental Microbiology 14(1):101-113.


Contact Us
Phone 405-325-4321
770 Van Vleet Oval

Norman, OK 73019
136 George Lynn Cross Hall
Hours: 8:00 am - 
5:00 pm M-F           Closed For Lunch 12:00 - 1:00

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