Oct 132010
Authors: Melissa Donahoo

Since 1989, Diana Wall has worked as a soils biologist everywhere from the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica to tall grass prairies in Kansas.

Wall, a biology professor and director of the CSU School of Global Environmental Sustainability, was named Wednesday as this year’s distinguished CSU ecologist for her research in ecology and biodiversity. She is the 5th individual to receive the award.

“It’s one thing to be honored internationally, another to be acknowledged by your colleagues and your students,” Wall said. “It’s very special.”
Wall’s interest in ecology grew from spending time outdoors learning about nature as a child.

Wall’s research in Antarctica led the ICSU Scientific Research Committee to name the valley after her in 2005. The majority of Wall’s research centers on soil’s influence on ecosystem processes.

After accepting the award, Wall gave a lecture to about 40 students and members of the campus community. This briefly reviewed the progress that’s been made in ecology over the past 10 years.

In her ESA Presidential Address in 2000, Wall said she challenged her colleagues to “be daring,” asking the question “Where do we want to be in 20 years?”

Since then, in terms of ecological genetics, we have advanced our knowledge, she said.

Her lecture informed students of issues concerning the status of the environment, such as the presence of roundworms in soil and spoke on how the information can be used to understand how diversity affects biochemical cycling and why that is important.

It is important to understand the complexity of soil biodiversity, she said, because of its affect on our ability to produce plant life.

This knowledge, she added, can be used to find different ways to reduce the impact of human activity on soil sustainability.

“Biodiversity has become much broader than just evaluating species,” Wall said, adding that ecologists are beginning to focus more on the human impact on soil and the environment.

Now, the goal is to understand the system and use that to manage it for the future.

“A lot of scientific information is not only a fascination with all life,” Wall said, “But it’s fascination with answering the question of ‘can we use it in a sustainable manner?’”

Staff writer Melissa Donahoo can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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