Maribeth Watwood


Professor, Dean of Graduate College 

Phone: 928-523-9322

Research/teaching interests

  • biodegradation of organic compounds
  • soil microbial ecology
  • bioremediation
  • nutrient cycling
  • wetland ecology

Academic highlights

  • Chair, Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University 2006-present
  • Professor of Microbiology, Northern Arizona University 2003-present
  • Professor of Microbiology, Idaho State University 1991-2003
  • NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, 1987-1991
  • PhD Microbiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, 1987
  • BS Microbiology, University of Georgia , Athens , G A, 1981

Our laboratory uses a variety of molecular and functional methods to estimate species diversity, examine how microbial communities interact with various environmental components, and explore linkages between community structure and function.

We are also actively developing new techniques to detect specific microbial activities in the environment.

We have been involved in research relating to the bioremediation of chlorinated solvents for over a decade, and a major thrust of this research has been to develop and assess enzyme activity-dependent probes specific for enzymes involved in the aerobic cometabolism of solvents, such as trichloroethylene. 

We are also investigating microbial communities and their roles in nutrient cycling in environments such as Fossil Creek, a travertine stream in central Arizona.

Specifically, we are using real time PCR to estimate gene copy number for genes involved in nitrogen transformations and linking this information to shifts in microbial communities.  Ultimately we hope to relate this data to process level measurements.

I am also a mentor in the NSF IGERT graduate training program; NAU’s IGERT PhD program seeks to identify key links between genes and the environment and is designed to train exceptional graduate students in molecular genetics, environmental sciences, and spatio-temporal modeling.

Selected publications

Clingenpeel S., J. Moan, D. M. Conley, B. A. Hungate, M. E. Watwood. 2012. Stable carbon isotope fractionation in chlorinated ethene degradation by bacteria expressing three toluene oxygenases. Frontiers in Microbiology 3: 00063. URL= technology,_ecotoxicology_and_bioremediation/10.3389/fmicb.2012.00063/

Woods, A., M. Watwood, and E. Schwartz. 2011. Identification Of a Toluene-degrading Bacterium From a Soil Sample Through H218O DNA-Stable Isotope Probing.  Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 77:5995-5999.

Harrop, B., J. Marks, and M. Watwood. 2009. Environmental Controls on Bacterial and Fungal Communities in Fossil Creek, a Travertine Stream in Arizona. Journal of the North American Benthological Association 28(2):383-396.

Marks, J. C., G. A. Haden, B. Harrop, E. G. Reese, J. L. Keams, M. E. Watwood, and T. G. Whitham. 2009.  Genetic and Environmental Controls of Microbial Communities on Leaf Litter in Streams. Freshwater Biology 54:2616-2627.

Lee, M.H., Clingenpeel, S.C., Leiser, O.P., Wymore, R.A., Sorenson, Jr., K.S., and M.E. Watwood. 2008. Activity-Dependent Labeling of Oxygenase Enzymes in a Trichloroethene-Contaminated Groundwater Site. Environmental Pollution 153 (1): 238-246.

Gresham, T. L., P. P. Sheridan, M. E. Watwood, Y. Fujita, and F. S. Colwell. 2007. Design and validation of ureC-based primers for groundwater detection of urea-hydrolyzing bacteria. Geomicrobiology Journal. 24:353-364.

Lee, M.H., J.L. Keams, D.W. Helzer, O.P. Leiser, S.A. Connon, T.A. Magnuson and M.E. Watwood. 2007. Characterization of viral and prokaryotic communities in Alvord Desert Hot Springs, Oregon. Aquatic Microbial Ecology 48:19-26.

Wymore, R.A., M.H. Lee, W.K. Keener, A.R. Miller, F.S. Colwell, M.E. Watwood, and K.S. Sorenson, Jr.  2007. Filed Evidence for Intrinsic Aerobic Chlorinated Ethene Cometabolism by Methanotrophs Expressing sMMO. Bioremediation Journal 11(3): 125-139.