Senior Research Scientist Will Lead Colorado State’s World Renowned Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory

Dennis Ojima, senior research scientist at Colorado State University’s Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory and affiliate faculty for the Department of Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship, was named today as the interim director of the renowned laboratory. Ojima will begin Sept. 1 and replaces Diana Wall, who has served as director since 1993.

The NREL at Colorado State is considered one of the world’s leading organizations performing ecological research throughout the world.

Ojima has been a senior research scientist at the NREL since 1996. His research areas include global climate and land-use change effects on ecosystem dynamics related to carbon sequestration, trace gas emissions, and the contributions to informed decision making. Ojima also is leading a major research effort associated with the North American Carbon Project to better understand ecosystem carbon and trace emissions across the continental United States.

"With Dennis Ojima’s impressive skills and accomplishments, I am confident in his ability to lead NREL until a permanent director has been retained," said Joyce Berry, dean of the College of Natural Resources. "Under his leadership, NREL will continue uninterrupted to conduct its work and engage in unparalleled, world-class research around the globe."

Among his many accomplishments and activities, Ojima has been an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow since 1998, and is currently co-chair of the Global Land Project that aims to implement a research strategy that integrates human dimension and ecological sciences to study the interactions of global environmental changes and land system processes. He is a member of the U.S. National Scientific Committee on Problems in the Environment Committee and a governing board member of the Ecological Society of America.

Ojima earned his bachelor’s degree in botany from Pomona College, master’s degree in plant ecology from the University of Florida and doctoral degree in ecosystem science from Colorado State University.

Wall will remain with the College in her position as a NREL senior research scientist and professor with the Department of Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship. She will continue to be actively engaged in research exploring how soil biodiversity contributes to healthy, productive soils, and the consequences of human activities on soil sustainability. Her research includes 16 seasons in the Antarctic Dry Valleys examining how soil foodwebs and ecosystem processes respond to global changes and a newer global study exploring linkages of hot and cold spots of biodiversity aboveground to those belowground.

Wall has also been active in the scientific community as president of the Ecological Society of America, current chair of the Scientific Society of Presidents, co-chair of the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program and as a member of the United States National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

"Diana Wall has been an outstanding and successful leader of the NREL," said Berry. "Diana is not only one of the nation’s leading ecosystem scientists, she is a visionary administrator who has championed interdisciplinary research and inspired a community of NREL scientists whose work is at the forefront of our most pressing global environmental  issues. Through her impressive hard work and exceptional dedication, NREL has grown and prospered as a recognized leader in international ecosystem research."  

The NREL focuses on interdisciplinary research in ecosystem science to improve understanding of the complex interactions between humans, management activities and ecosystems. Toward that goal, research programs have been developed that focus on the following strategic areas.

–     The African Ecosystems Program aims to improve the understanding and conservation of biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being on the African continent through state-of-the-art ecosystem and social science research, and develop solutions to environmental problems in which people are integral components of the landscape.

–     The Program for Environmental Sustainability works to maintain or improve quality of life by developing a multi-scaled understanding of how human activities are altering the biosphere and how these changes will, in turn, impact human society.

–     The Program for Greenhouse Gas Mitigation through Natural Resource Management facilitates the adoption of improved land management practices to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in an economically and environmentally sustainable fashion.

–     The Rocky Mountain Environment and Society Program focuses on understanding and quantifying the influence of natural and human-induced change on the Rocky Mountain ecosystems from the mountains to the plains, and to understand the influence of mountain ecological change on regional society and economics, reaching out to people from mountain regions around the world who are facing similar challenges, and to effectively communicate knowledge to decision-makers, managers, students and the public.

For more information about the NREL at Colorado State, visit