Diana Wall, a leading expert in soil invertebrate diversity, has spent more than 25 seasons in the cold deserts of Antarctica examining how global changes impact soils, organisms, and ecosystem functioning. Wall’s passion for the study of nematodes (roundworms) and other invertebrates has given importance to a neglected yet critically important component of ecosystems: the life in soil. Her collaborative experiments have tackled a global unknown – whether soil invertebrates are key actors globally in the major ecosystem process of decomposition – and shown that they are. This provides implications for land response to global climate change.
Wall received her B.A. and PhD at the University of Kentucky. She was a research scientist and professor at the University of California, Riverside, before coming to Colorado State University in 1993. She is a University Distinguished Professor and Director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability (SoGES) at CSU and is also a Professor of Biology and Senior Research Scientist at the Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory. As SoGES director, Wall established a Sustainability Leadership Fellow Program to train CSU graduate students and post-doctorate researchers to communicate their research. Her team of students and fellow researchers spends a field season annually in the Antarctic Dry Valleys. The Wall Valley in Antarctica and a soil microarthropod species are named after her.
Diana Wall’s research has brought her national and international renown and influence in science and policy development. She was a member of the U. S. National Science Foundation Antarctic Program Blue Ribbon Panel and in 2012 received the President’s Medal for Excellence in Antarctic Research of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. She received the 2012 Mines Medal from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and was named the 2012 Tansley Lecturer by the British Ecological Society. She holds an Honorary Doctorate from Utrecht University, The Netherlands and is a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America, Aldo Leopold leadership Program, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Society of Nematologists. Wall is the 2013 Laureate of the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. She has served on many international committees and is currently the Science Chair for the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative. She was also a member of the UNESCO International Hydrological Program, U.S. National Science Foundation Antarctic Program Blue Ribbon Panel. She is a member of the boards of the World Resources Institute and Island Press, and she has served as president of the Ecological Society of America, American Institute of Biological Sciences, and as chair of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents. Wall’s work has ecosystem survival implications and helps the scientific world better understand and protect our soil, biodiversity, and human life in the process.
Wall’s persistence and enthusiasm for science helped her overcome obstacles of working in a male-dominated field. She is a role model and mentor for women students and works constantly to encourage women to engage and stay in STEM fields.