I am the the Myers Professor of Environmental Science in the Environmental Studies Program at Dartmouth College. I am an ecosystem ecologist interested in human influence on biogeochemical cycles in terrestrial systems with an emphasis on understanding how climate change alters plant-soil interactions and the ecology, biodiversity, and functioning of soils.
My current research examines carbon and nutrient cycling in the polar deserts of Antarctica (McMurdo Dry Valleys) and tundra ecosystems in western Greenland. I am also interested in the relationships between the disciplines of ecology, ecosystem science and environmental law. Previous research examined the desertification of southwestern grasslands and strategies for the restoration of dryland ecosystems.
Currently, I am a co-principal investigator on the McMurdo Dry Valley Long Term Ecological Research Program. I also serve as the Director of the Dickey Center’s Institute of Arctic Studies and their NSF funded graduate program in polar environmental change – the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (or IGERT). Through my role as Director, I also assist with the implementation of the Institute’s NSF funded Joint Education Science Program (or JSEP). JSEP is a program that provides high school students the opportunity to travel to polar regions and participate in hands-on and inquiry-based science activities.
In 2014, I was selected by the U.S. State Department as one of two distinguished scholar leaders of the newly established Fulbright Arctic Initiative. This program aims to stimulate international scientific collaboration on the impact of climate change in the Arctic during the period of the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, 2015-17.
I have a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California at Davis and previously held research and faculty positions at the University of California, Riverside and San Diego State University before joining the Dartmouth faculty in 1992.
To read more about my career at Dartmouth College, check out a July/August 2012 Dartmouth Alumni Magazine Feature entitled, “The Natural.”
Since 1989, I have spent over 20 field seasons conducting long-term ecological research in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. In 2004, the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names (US-ACAN) honored my research by naming a portion of the McMurdo Dry Valleys after me! Virginia Valley is an upland valley east of Wall Valley in Olympus Range. It is located between the north part of Mount Electra on the west, and Mount Circe and Mount Dido on the east. The valley opens north to McKelvey Valley.