Falk Warnecke was a postdoctoral fellow at the DOE JGI’s Microbial Ecology Program from March 2005 until June 2009. Among the publications that resulted from his work here, he was first author on the termite hindgut metagenome paper that appeared in Nature.
Warnecke died on July 15, 2014 at the age of 42. Within a day, Phil Hugenholtz, who previously headed the DOE JGI Microbial Ecology Program and now Director of the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics at the University of Queensland, was quick to share his thoughts about his former colleague:
“I heard the sad news of Falk Warnecke’s death this morning while attending a conference on insect biology in Cairns, Australia. Falk was a founding member of the Microbial Ecology Program at JGI together with Victor Kunin and Hector Garcia Martin. Although, they did not see eye to eye initially (or speak the same science lingo), they made a formidable team once they had learned to communicate and respect each other’s strengths. Falk was the microbial ecologist in the team, trained in the rigorous German tradition. He led the charge on our termite gut microbiome project together with Jared Leadbetter, culminating in the much-cited Warnecke et al paper published in Nature in 2007. (See and read about Falk tracking termites at http://bit.ly/Atlantermite08.) Just this morning in my session on termite-microbe symbiosis, the Warnecke et al paper featured in three different talks attesting to its ongoing impact in the field. Falk was struck down in his prime by a brain tumor shortly after leaving JGI. What I had mistaken as his adopting the laid back Californian attitude in his final year at JGI was the tumor pressing on his frontal lobe and disinhibiting him. Despite the grim prognosis (5 year average survival), Falk started his own group at the University of Jena in Germany. I met him several times at conferences after that, and not once did he complain about his fate or show any self-pity. He threw himself bravely into his work and hobbies (notably hiking) and made the most of the time he had left. My condolences to his family and friends, and to the field of microbial ecology, which is poorer for his passing.”