Diana H. Wall

Colorado State University

Primary Section: 63, Environmental Sciences and Ecology
Secondary Section: 62, Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2018)


Diana Wall is an ecologist and environmental scientist recognized for her work on soil biodiversity and climate change. Her research has emphasized how life in soil, from microbes to invertebrates, contributes to ecosystem services. She is internationally renowned for her studies on the dynamics, functioning and survival of nematodes in soils of the Antarctic dry valleys. Her collaborative nature and pioneering global scale studies of soil biodiversity are hallmarks of her career. Wall was born in Durham, North Carolina and graduated in 1965 from the University of Kentucky with a degree in biology. She earned a PhD in plant pathology in 1971 from the same institution. She began her career as a postdoctoral researcher, Research Nematologist and Full Professor in the Department of Nematology at the University of California, Riverside. In 1993 she joined the faculty at Colorado State University. She has been president of the Society of Nematologists, the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the Ecological Society of America and is the founding science chair of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative. She received the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Diana Wall’s laboratory focuses on soil biodiversity in ecosystems and the consequences of human activities on soils globally. Nematodes are studied as a model taxa because these soil invertebrates are ubiquitous, abundant in most ecosystems, and they are involved in key ecosystem processes regulating carbon and nutrient cycling. Their approach for advancing understanding of the importance of soil biodiversity is to work in the least diverse communities and at the limits to life in the Antarctic dry valleys where climate change effects are amplified. Across these dry valleys, just a few species of soil nematodes exist but they are the most abundant animal group in the ecosystem, with the biogeographic distribution for each species determined by geological legacies. A 20-year long-term project on climate change revealed that the dominant nematode species declined with increased warming events, while other less common taxa have increased. By altering the soil physical and chemical habitat through increased moisture, warming creates a more homogenous soil community. Her Antarctic research is complemented by standardized global scale field studies demonstrating that soil animals increase decomposition rates more in temperate and moist tropical climates than in cold and dry conditions.

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