Steve A. Wakelin



Dr Steve Wakelin is a microbial ecologist with expertise in soil biogeochemistry and plant-microbe-soil interactions. He has worked across a diverse range of native and managed ecosystems, exploring the role of microorganisms and microbial processes in ecosystem function and stability. He has a particular interest in functional microbiology ecology and the application of environmental genomics era tools to understand and manage ecosystem function to meet both productive and environmental goals.


  • PhD (Plant Pathology), Lincoln University, New Zealand - 2001
  • MSc (1st Class Hons) (Microbiology), University of Canterbury, New Zealand -1998
  • BSc (Microbiology), University of Canterbury, New Zealand -1995

Research capabilities

  • Molecular microbiology
  • Microbial ecology
  • Ecotoxicology
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Soil-plant-microbe interactions
  • Ecosystem function and stability

Career highlights

  • 2016-present – Research Leader, Forest Systems Ecology
  • 2010-2016 – Senior Research Scientist (Soil Microbiology), AgResearch Ltd,
  • 2016 – Invited Plenary Speaker at the New Zealand and Australian soil science conference "Soil: a balancing act down-under"
  • 2015 – Public lecture on Soil Microbiology at Lincoln University (part of UN International Year of Soils, NZ lecture series)
  • 2015 – Invited Speaker to various industry conferences
  • 2013 – CSIRO CESRE Divisional Award winner for Science/Research Excellence.
  • 2008-2010 – Senior Research Scientist, Environmental Microbiology, CSIRO Land and Water, Adelaide, Australia.
  • 2004-2008 – Research scientist, Environmental Microbiology, CSIRO, Adelaide, Australia.
  • 2011 – Durmont d’Urville French – New Zealand study travel.
  • 2011 – Research Affiliate of the BioProtection Research Centre, Lincoln University.
  • 2006 – CSIRO Julius Career Award to outstanding early career scientists.

Selected papers

Cui P, Fan F, Yin C, Song A, Huang P, Tang Y, Zhu P, Peng C, Li T, Wakelin SA, Liang Y (2016). Long-term organic and inorganic fertilization alters temperature sensitivity of potential N2O emissions and associated microbes.  Soil Biology and Biochemistry 93: 131-141.

Fan F, Yin C, Tang Y, Li Z, Song A, Wakelin SA, Zou J, Liang Y (2014). Probing potential microbial coupling of carbon and nitrogen cycling during decomposition of maize residue by 13C-DNA-SIP.  Soil Biology and Biochemistry 70: 12-21.

Wakelin SA, Macdonald LM, O'Callaghan M, Forrester ST, Condron LM (2014). Soil functional resistance and stability are linked to different ecosystem properties.  Austral Ecology 39: 522-531.

Wakelin SA, Barratt BIP, Gerard E, Gregg AL, Brodie EL, Andersen GL, DeSantis TZ, Zhou J, He Z, Kowalchuk GA, O'Callaghan M (2013). Shifts in the phylogenetic structure and functional capacity of soil microbial communities follow alteration of native tussock grassland ecosystems.  Soil Biology and Biochemistry 57: 675-682.

Wakelin SA, Nelson PN, Armour JD, Rasiah V, Colloff MJ (2011). Bacterial community structure and denitrifier (nir-gene) abundance in soil water and groundwater beneath agricultural land in tropical North Queensland, Australia.  Soil Research 49: 65-76.

Bissett A, Richardson AE, Baker G, Wakelin S, Thrall PH (2010). Life history determines biogeographical patterns of soil bacterial communities over multiple spatial scales.  Molecular Ecology 19: 4315-4327.

Reith F, Fairbrother L, Nolze G, Wilhelmi O, Clode PL, Gregg A, Parsons JE, Wakelin SA, Pring A, Hough R, Southam G, Brugger J (2010). Nanoparticle factories: Biofilms hold the key to gold dispersion and nugget formation.  Geology 38: 843-846.

Wakelin SA, Chu G, Lardner R, Liang Y, McLaughlin M (2009). A single application of Cu to field soil has long-term effects on bacterial community structure, diversity, and soil processes. Pedobiologia 53: 149-158.

Mertens J, Broos K, Wakelin SA, Kowalchuk GA, Springael D, Smolders E (2009). Bacteria, not archaea, restore nitrification in a zinc-contaminated soil. ISME Journal 3: 916-923.

Wakelin SA, Colloff MJ, Kookana RS (2008). Effect of wastewater treatment plant effluent on microbial function and community structure in the sediment of a freshwater stream with variable seasonal flow.  Applied and Environmental Microbiology 74: 2659-2668.

Wakelin SA, Macdonald LM, Rogers SL, Gregg AL, Bolger TP, Baldock JA (2008). Habitat selective factors influencing the structural composition and functional capacity of microbial communities in agricultural soils.  Soil Biology and Biochemistry 40: 803-813.