United States
Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research

US Antarctic Interview Series - Diana Wall and Abby Jackson

US-SCAR announces the posting of interviews with Diana Wall and Abby Jackson as the most recent additions to our US Antarctic Interview Series. Diana was interviewed in 2023, and unfortunately her story is being published posthumously. The US Antarctic Interview Series is structured so that there are two interviews in each installment, one interview is with an established US Antarctic scientist and the second interview with an early career collaborator. As the US Antarctic Interview Series expands, we hope to provide a good cross-section of the people and the science that make up the US Antarctic Program. 

We would like to pay special homage to Diana for the immense contributions she has made to many aspects of science throughout her career. Below is a tribute to Diana by her friend and colleague Byron Adams. This reflection is included with her interview in the US Antarctic Interview Series.

A Tribute to Diana Wall

Diana H. Wall (Dec. 27, 1943 - March 25, 2024) was a towering figure in Antarctic science known for her tenacity and tireless efforts to advance fundamental knowledge of soil ecology and biodiversity and connect it to stewardship and sustainability policies. Her groundbreaking work in the McMurdo Dry Valleys laid the foundation for environmental stewardship, management, and policy, in one of the most extreme environments on Earth.

Throughout her career, Diana faced and fought against discrimination, becoming a fierce advocate for removing barriers to success for future generations of scientists. Her dedication to equality, inclusion, and mentoring was as remarkable as her scientific achievements.

Diana's contributions to Antarctic research are monumental. She played a pivotal role in establishing the McMurdo Dry Valleys Long Term Ecological Research (MCM LTER) Project. Diana's expertise in soil ecology and her collaboration with Ross Virginia were crucial in securing the original LTER award. As one MCM LTER principal investigator stated, "without Diana, there would be no MCM LTER."

Diana's commitment to Antarctic research saw her deploy to the continent 29 times over 28 consecutive field seasons from 1989 to 2018. Her work often involved multidisciplinary and international collaborations with national programs from Italy, New Zealand, and others.

Her influence extended beyond fieldwork. Diana was instrumental in shaping Antarctic research priorities, serving on the SCAR Life Sciences Standing Scientific Group and contributing to US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panels. She played a key role in developing SCAR's Antarctic Thresholds - Ecosystem Resilience and Adaptation (AnT-ERA) Scientific Research Program. She coauthored the NAS report on Future Science Opportunities in Antarctica and Southern Ocean (2011) and served on the USAP Blue Ribbon Panel to advance more and better science through increased logistical effectiveness. She served on the Polar Research Board from 2005-2008 and as its chair from 2020-2023.

In recognition of her outstanding achievements, Diana received the SCAR President’s Medal in 2012, and in 2005, Wall Valley, Antarctica, was named in her honor. An obituary and retrospective of Diana’s contributions can be found in Nature and Science.

This interview took place on February 2, 2023, and offers a poignant reflection on her remarkable career and enduring legacy.

-- Byron Adams, Professor and Chair of the Biology Department, Brigham Young University
US Representative and Secretary, SCAR Life Sciences Group