SoGES Director Diana Wall receives top honor from Ecological Society of America

Diana Wall Miers Antarctica
Professor Wall is studying ecosystem responses to climate change as part of the McMurdo Dry Valleys Long Term Ecological Research program. Photo: Martijn Vandegehuchte

Colorado State University Distinguished Professor Diana Wall was recognized March 1 by the Ecological Society of America, which announced that she will receive its highest honor, the 2017 Eminent Ecologist Award, at the society’s annual meeting in August.

The award honors a senior ecologist for an outstanding body of ecological work or sustained ecological contributions of extraordinary merit.

Wall, a world-renowned soil ecologist and director of CSU’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability, said that she was deeply honored by this recognition. “I am excited to join such an esteemed group of ecologists as we work towards a future in which ecology takes center stage,” she said.

The Ecological Society of America has more than 10,000 members worldwide. Sixty-four ecologists have received this top honor since it was first awarded in 1953.

Wall and her research team study nematodes, also known as roundworms. Photo: D. Robson

Wall recently returned from Antarctica — her 27th year “on the ice” — with a team of researchers from CSU and across the United States. She studies soil nematodes, or roundworms, in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, one of the coldest, driest and windiest ecosystems on the planet.

As part of the McMurdo Dry Valleys Long Term Ecological Research program, she is investigating ecosystem responses to climate change. In 2004, Wall Valley, Antarctica was named in honor of her many scientific contributions.

Wall has dedicated her career to studying soil biodiversity and ecosystem processes. She is scientific chair of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative which, with the European Union Joint Research Initiative, released the “Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas” in May 2016 at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya. The goal of the work is to raise awareness about the importance of soil’s life — the bacteria, fungi, and animals — that live in the world just beneath our feet.

Alan Knapp, senior ecologist and director of CSU’s Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, said that the university’s reputation in ecological sciences can, in large part, be attributed to Wall’s “amazing” career.

“This recognition of her outstanding career in ecological research validates what we at CSU have known for a long time,” he said. “The Eminent Ecologist Award is one of the most competitive and prestigious awards given, often to scientists after their career is over. For Diana to win this award while still an active and highly productive ecologist speaks highly of her continued dedication to using science to better understand how the natural world works.”

Wall, a professor in the Department of Biology and senior research scientist in the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at CSU, has served as president of the Ecological Society of America, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and the Society of Nematologists.

She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, recipient of the Ulysses Medal, the 2013 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research President’s Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Antarctic Science.

Wall also received in 2016 the British Ecological Society’s highest award, Honorary Member, among numerous other honors over the years.