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Antarctic soil researcher awarded prestigious 2013 Tyler Environmental Prize
Date:3/16/2013

. Degradation of soil and land is playing an increasingly large role in discussions at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

"We know that we've got extensive soil problems globally," said Wall. "From the increasing spread of deserts, to decreasing soil fertility, to more frequent and severe droughts, we have things happening to land that affect the species that live in soil and the ability of that soil to help sustain plant life, purify water and store carbon."

"Soil ecology and its essential biodiversity is just now beginning to get the level of attention that the oceans, rivers, lakes and wetlands receive when it comes to protecting our environment," said Wall. "This is the new frontier of climate change and environmental preservation."

Analyzing Soil: From Antarctica to Central Park

Wall's career started in horse country Kentucky where she worked a summer analyzing parasites infecting horses. After an offer to study soil nematodes, Wall moved into the study of plant pathology. From there, her research took her south to the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. It was here that she was first able to study all the animal species living in soil and their relationships in a less complex ecosystem.

"I can see two to three animal species in the soils of Antarctica and 250 in a handful of soil elsewhere," said Wall. "By working in an isolated and extreme environment like Antarctica, without people and plants, we can study what happens when we make very specific changes to moisture or temperature to better understand soil ecology and the importance of individual species."

Lessons learned over more than 20 years in cold deserts like the Dry Valley have been applied to the hot, dry climates of deserts like the Sahara.

Today, Wall's work now spans the globe to include projects in Africa, the grasslands of
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Contact: Nick Seaver
nseaver@burnesscommunications.com
301-280-5727
Burness Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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