Note to Reporters: A photo of Diana Wall is available with the news release at http://news.colostate.edu.
Two planes, one ship, one Zodiac raft and three days will get University Distinguished Professor Diana Wall to an icy end of the earth this week where she will help evaluate the U.S. research presence in Antarctica.
Wall, a Colorado State University biology professor and nationally well-known ecologist, is one of only 12 people – and one of only three scientists – appointed to the U.S. Antarctic Program Blue Ribbon Panel.
Five panel members, including Wall, will visit Antarctica for the week to evaluate the efficiencies of the U.S. science program – everything from the planes that fly there to the ease of obtaining food and other materials. Some buildings and equipment, such as the medical facilities on McMurdo Station, date to the 1950s.
“We’re going to make recommendations on a long-term strategy for an efficient U.S. research program for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean,” Wall said. “We’re looking at everything from international collaborations to the management and logistics support of the program.”
“There have been many scientific discoveries there, but today, the most important issue is the effect of climate change on the Antarctic continent and South Ocean. We need the research to understand when and how ice and ecosystems will change, similar to what we have looked at for the Artic Circle,” Wall said. “The Antarctic is a huge continent – bigger than Mexico and the U.S. put together – and it’s experiencing additional impacts on terrestrial and ocean biodiversity from tourism and scientists.”
Wall has spent more than 21 seasons in Antarctica studying the effects of climate change on ecosystems and exploring soil biodiversity and survival of organisms in this harsh continent. Wall’s journeys and exploration of Antarctica have provided professors and scientists around the country with information about the role of soil biodiversity in carbon cycling and other ecosystem services.
She recently co-authored a groundbreaking study that revealed microscopic animals that live in soils are as diverse in the tropical forests of Costa Rica as they are in the arid grasslands of Kenya or the tundra and boreal forests of Alaska and Sweden.