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38th T.B. Macaulay Lecture - Global soil biodiversity: establishing common ground for sustainability

13 October 2015, 10.30am: Free
at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 22–26 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PQ
for interested parties and members of the public
Diana Walls

Diana H Wall, University Distinguished Professor and Director, School of Global Environmental Sustainability, Colorado State University, delivered the 38th T.B. Macaulay lecture which was held for the second time at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. You can view the video online here.

The annual Macaulay lecture is given to stimulate thinking and dialogue about contemporary environmental issues in order to honour the vision of Dr Thomas Bassett Macaulay. Dr Macaulay was one time President and Chairman of the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada who provided an endowment to found the Macaulay Institute for Soil Research in Aberdeen in 1930; a predecessor of the James Hutton Institute, a world leader in research in the land, crop, water, environmental and socio-economic sciences.

The lecture is presented in partnership by the James Hutton Institute and the Macaulay Development Trust.


Soils are home to a vast diversity of life that is essential for a variety of ecosystem functions – from the tiniest microbes to larger soil animals and plant roots.  The UN has designated 2015 as the International Year of Soils to acknowledge their importance and to raise awareness on the need to protect this valuable resource for future generations.  Although it is well established that soil organisms provide essential services including decomposition of organic matter, nutrient cycling, cleansing of water, and regulation of pests, the complex relationships in soil are often overlooked in management and policy decisions. The Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI) was established in 2011 with the goal of advancing the knowledge of soil biodiversity science. The GSBI aims to increase the implementation of findings on the benefits of soil biodiversity and identify ways to restore, conserve and promote soils and soil biodiversity.  Scientists investigating life in the soil emphasize the critical role of soil biodiversity at all trophic levels to soil functioning and plant production, and thus, our reliance on living soils for a sustainable future.


Professor Wall was appointed as the Founding Director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability in 2008. A professor in the Department of Biology and Senior Scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Diana is responsible for helping faculty and students contribute to progress towards a sustainable future.

A soil ecologist and environmental scientist, Diana is actively engaged in research exploring how life in soil (microbial and invertebrate diversity) contributes to healthy, fertile and productive soils and thus to society, and the consequences of human activities on soil globally. Her research on soil biota, particularly soil nematodes, extends from agroecosystems to arid ecosystems. Diana has spent more than 25 seasons in the Antarctic Dry Valleys examining how global changes impact soil biodiversity, ecosystem processes and ecosystem services. She currently serves as Science Chair for the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative. She has also served as President of the Ecological Society of America, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the Society of Nematologists and other scientific societies. Diana received the 2013 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and the 2013 Soil Science Society of America Presidential Award. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and holds an Honorary Doctorate from Utrecht University, The Netherlands. She received a B.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky, Lexington.

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.