A University of Oklahoma anthropology professor, Christina Warinner, is featured in Science News’ SN10: Scientists to Watch—an annual list of 10 scientists making the next big discoveries. For the third year in a row, Science News is highlighting 10-early- and mid-career scientists on their way to widespread acclaim. Warinner is the first and only Big 12 scientist to ever be spotlighted in the SN 10. Warinner’s story is available in the October 14 edition of Science News available online today at www.sciencenews.org/SN10.
“Professor Christina Warinner has built a remarkable reputation and worldwide network of collaborators in an astoundingly short period of time following her formal education at Harvard,” said Kelvin Droegemeier, OU vice president of research. “Her research in ancient microbiomes and use of dental calculus as “human tree rings” is a major leap forward in unraveling mysteries not only of ancient peoples but of the worlds in which they lived. And, her ability to explain this complex work I ways that are accessible to students and non-scientists rivals that of anyone I know.”
Warinner co-directs OU’s Laboratories of Molecular Anthropology and Microbiome Research and the research focused on reconstructing the ancestral human oral and gut microbiome, addressing questions concerning how the relationship between humans and microbes has changed through time and how our microbiomes influence health and disease in diverse populations today and in the past. Warinner is recognized as a leader in the field of paleogenomics and conducts her research at the OU laboratories, which house the largest ancient DNA laboratory in the United States.
Warinner is pioneering the study of ancient human microbiomes, and in 2014, she published the first detailed metagenomics and metaproteomic characterization of the ancient oral microbiome in the journal Nature Genetics. In 2015, she published a study on the identification of milk proteins in ancient dental calculus and the reconstruction of prehistoric European dairying practices. In the same year, she was part of an international team that published the first South American hunter-gatherer gut microbiome and identified Treponema as a key missing ancestral microbe in industrialized societies.
Warinner has published 29 peer-reviewed journal articles, two books and five book chapters, and she serves on the Editorial Board of Scientific Reports. Her research earned an Honorable Mention for the Omenn Prize, an annual prize for best article published on evolution, medicine and public health; and her ancient microbiome findings were named among the top 100 scientific discoveries of 2014 by Discover Magazine.
Warinner’s research has been featured in more than 75 news articles, including stories in Science, Cell, Scientific American, The New Scientist, Archaeology Magazine, LA Times, The Guardian, WIRED UK, MSNBC, FOX News and CNN, among others. She has presented before the Royal Society of London and at the California Academy of Sciences and the American Museum of Natural History on behalf of the Leakey Foundation. In 2015, she was invited to participate in a White House microbiome innovation forum sponsored by the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Warinner has been featured in three documentaries, and her work on ancient Nepal appears in the award-winning children’s book, Secrets of the Sky Caves. In January 2017, her research was featured in the NOVA documentary, Secrets of the Sky Tombs, on Public Broadcasting Station. She was named a U.S. National Academy Sciences Kavli Fellow in 2014, and in 2012, Warinner was awarded a TED Fellowship. Her TED talks on ancient dental calculus and the evolution of the human diet have been viewed more than 2 million times. Warinner presented the “Evolution of the Ecology of the Microbial Self” at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.